Her Majesty would not be amused, but Sidney’s acting mayor Peter Wainwright said he is surprised to field questions about the decision of the municipality to remove a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II from council chambers.
“The portrait of the Queen has been down actually for quite a long time,” he said.
Sidney removed the portrait from behind the mayor’s chair in early May. Council also commissioned a piece of First Nations art from Chazz Elliott, a Coast Salish artist from the Tsartlip Reserve, after discovering that municipal hall was lacking any kind of recognition of local First Nations. Sidney’s budget for the commission is $10,000.
Wainright said the piece will have a prominent presence in council chambers in pointing to Sidney’s support of the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“One of the overall objectives in that and Canadian society as a whole is decolonization, and given prominence to a portrait of the monarch is definitely a colonial symbol, and for that reason, the majority of governments no longer provide a prominent display of the monarch in their council chamber,” he said. “We have essentially done the same thing.”
Council has neither seen the new art work nor discussed where it will appear, said Wainwright, with early December being the likely installation date.
Sidney staff says the portrait that came down is the official Canadian portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II wearing her Canadian insignia as sovereign of the Order of Canada and the Order of Military Merit. It was photographed at Rideau Hall, the residence of the Governor General, Ottawa, Ontario on July 1, 2010. That would make her 84 years old in the portrait.
It is not clear for how long Sidney has hung a portrait of the Queen in its council chambers. Wainwright remembers one there when he first gained office in 1993. Notably, Wainright declined to swear allegiance to the Queen during his swearing-in ceremony.
“I actually had quite a few positive comments for having done that,” he said. “I confess that nobody has even mentioned it in the last 20 years, but the first time I did it, people obviously noticed.”
Sidney’s official Town Crier Kenny Podmore acknowledged his support of the Queen and monarchy in disagreeing with Sidney’s decision. “When I heard about it, I was very, very sad,” he said.
Podmore said he would like to see the portrait return. “I think we are part of the Commonwealth,” he said. “The Queen is the head of the Commonwealth. It also comes down to respect in the monarchy.”