As Canada prepares to celebrate its 150th year, Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins has spent some time considering the township’s motto, thinking it may be a good time for a change.
For Desjardins, the current motto, “A Place of Shoaling Waters” is confusing to many residents and visitors since many people don’t know what shoaling means.
In a report to council, Desjardins also said the geographic location of the historical shoaling water (meaning a place where a sea, river or other body of water is shallow) does not lie within the boundaries of the municipality, according to a local historian.
The phrase is a direct translation of Esquimalt’s First Nation Lekwungen-derived name, Es-whoy-malth. Desjardins, however, would like to see the township retain “Place of Shoaling Waters” as a historical reference, but the community also adopt “Always First” and return to the original corporate seal with “Quansum Elip” — which the municipality used until the coat of arms was presented to the community in 1957.
“It re-embraces our connection to our First Nations origins and our historical connections, adding another layer to our important tie with our First Nations communities,” said Desjardins in the report, noting “Quansum Elip” or “Always First” is an expression derived from the Chinook jargon or wawa — a traditional trading language that existed before European contact.
“In this way we can preserve our connection to Chinook wawa, a language that predates European contact, and represents a tangible bridge between all groups, indigenous and non-indigenous.”
The idea was brought forward to Esquimalt council Monday night, where it was met with mixed reviews and received as information.
Coun. Meagan Brame noted there are several other things staff could be doing with their time, while Coun. Olga Liberchuk liked the idea of revisiting the motto. Coun. Tim Morrison, however, didn’t see any point in going much further.
“I think we over think things far too much when we start over analyzing the fact that it’s somehow confusing to people to say that we’re the place of gently shoaling waters,” said Morrison. “That’s how our fathers and mothers described us, and that’s how we’ve always been described and that’s how we’re always going to be described.”
Township residents have also been discussing the idea on Facebook, where it was met with mixed reviews. One woman even created a poll, and as of Tuesday, more than 100 people had voted to keep “Place of Shoaling Waters” while only a handful of people were in favour of changing it to something else or “Always First” or simply leaving it alone.