The Municipality of North Cowichan will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2023, and is looking for ways to celebrate its sesquicentennial.
At its meeting on Feb. 2, council heard from staff that a significant grant opportunity through Canadian Heritage that supports community anniversaries is available, but the grant application deadline of April 30 is fast approaching.
Council will support staff’s intent to appoint members of the community who represent arts, culture, history, and Indigenous peoples to a working group to begin identifying and submitting grant opportunities that would support community celebrations, arts and culture activities, and legacy projects such as banners, placemaking, or art installations that recognize and celebrate North Cowichan’s sesquicentennial in 2023.
A staff report said that in 1998, on the occasion of North Cowichan’s 125th anniversary, a handful of events and activities were undertaken, including publication of a historic photo book, a luncheon for seniors, numerous sports events and tournaments under the “125th anniversary” banner, establishment of the municipal archives, construction of a bocce ball court in Crofton, and distribution of anniversary pins and t-shirts to community groups and individuals.
Mayor Al Siebring said he excited about the 150th anniversary but he regrets that he won’t be mayor when it is celebrated.
Siebring recently announced he doesn’t intend to run for re-election in October’s municipal elections.
“I think it’s good to toot our own horn a little and this is something that will potentially get us down that road,” he said.
Coun. Christopher Justice said Canada itself only celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2017, making the municipality just six years younger than the nation itself.
In fact, North Cowichan is the fifth oldest municipality in British Columbia after New Westminster, Victoria, Chilliwack, and District of Langley.
“However, we must be thoughtful that for many of our neighbours and residents, this is no cause for celebration; in fact, it’s just the opposite,” Justice said.
“We just recognized the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation so I really hope that we can take this as an opportunity to explore the complexity of our shared past and think about how to make this primarily about a goal of reconciliation in North Cowichan. So, in addition to forming this committee, maybe our First Nations relations committee might want to spend some creative time on it as well.”
Coun. Debra Toporowski, who is also a councillor with Cowichan Tribes, said she believes that that North Cowichan’s sesquicentennial is something to celebrate.
“But I think as part of our history and as part of our healing, we have to face what happened,” she said.
“Maybe this will come out in the committee’s discussions, and maybe not.”