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City of Duncan eliminates town crier position

Cites “increased awareness of historical injustices” as reason
The City of Duncan has retired the position of town crier. Pictured is Ben Buss, who has served as the city’s town crier since 2011. (Citizen file)

The City of Duncan is getting rid of the position of town crier, which has been in place since 1995, and the man who’s been filling the role since 2011 is disappointed.

In a press release, the city said that “as it moves forward in a post pandemic world, and with increased awareness of historical injustices, there is a need to re-evaluate the practices and symbolism of the past”, and one area council has re-evaluated is that of is that of city ambassador, which has been represented by a town crier.

The city acknowledged that there have been town criers in North America ever since Europeans have been coming to the continent, and there are records throughout the 16th century of town criers in Mexico, Peru, and Panama.

All through the American Colonies and beyond, criers were a constant during the mid-17th century and in some places, the office of town crier persisted into the early 20th century before becoming more symbolic.


But Mayor Michelle Staples said everything has its time.

“And at this time, council has made the decision to retire the position of town crier,” she said.

“As we move into the future, the City of Duncan looks forward to working with our neighbours and community to create a new City Ambassador role to represent the city at events and greet our many visitors. City council and staff would like to thank the current town crier Ben Buss, and past town crier Robert Alexander. Their regalia and cries will live on in many for years to come.”

Buss, who has been Duncan’s town crier since 2011, said he will miss his job.

He said he received a letter from the city explaining that due to the ongoing truth and reconciliation work with First Nations, and the recent discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at residential schools across the country, the city has decided to eliminate the position of town crier.

“I really liked my job, although the only corporate work I have done for city in recent years is to be the town crier once a year to introduce the special AGM that is held each December,” Buss said.

“I do get calls to be there for store openings and other events in the area each year, and this decision by the city doesn’t prevent me from working as a town crier in the community. I do own the suit and I will do it again if asked. But I fear that once word gets out about the city’s decision to eliminate the position, and its reasons for doing so, I might not get so many calls anymore.”

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Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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