The newly elected mayor of Victoria, Canada has stirred discussion by refusing to swear an oath to Queen Elizabeth II.
“Today I affirmed an oath to serve my community with integrity. This is what today should be about,” said Lisa Helps recently via Twitter.
Helps emphasized in her comments following her inauguration that she pledged to serve the people of Victoria, and left out the Queen’s name partly as a gesture to the local indigenous peoples.
“I have nothing against the Queen, but I do strongly support our Songhees and Esquimalt nations,” said Helps after the meeting. “This is their territory, and if there’s anything to emphasize, it’s that.”
Five of the city’s nine-member council also broke tradition.
“I know that imperialism by Britain and other European states has caused tremendous suffering and dislocation for indigenous people, here on Vancouver Island and around the world, including the families of many friends,” said one councilor, Ben Isitt, in a blog post.
“The impacts of the ongoing processes of imperialism and colonization continue to hold back our communities. This is not an indictment of Elizabeth II as an individual, but of the system her family currently symbolizes.”
The decisions have spurred discussion on the matter, including backlash from the Monarchist League of Canada.
Bruce Hallsor, representing the league, said members of the league wouldn’t have voted for Helps if they’d known she would refuse the oath. Helps only won by 89 votes.
“I’m pretty sure there’s more than 89 monarchists who voted for Lisa Helps who would not have voted for her if she had been upfront about our recent position,” Hallsor told Global B.C.
There are varying requirements for pledging an oath to the Queen across Canada for elected officials, although new citizens are all required to take the oath.
Thee immigrants challenged the oath this year, but it was rejected because the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled any Canadian oath is technically an oath to the Queen.
“Because the Queen remains the head of our government, any oath that commits the would-be citizen to the principles of Canada’s government is implicitly an oath to the Queen,” wrote Justice Karen Weiler.