OLD NEWS: This week in Saanich history – April 6-12

The News’ weekly historical feature looks at Saanich’s plan to erect a life-sized statue of the Queen on the municipal hall lawn

To mark the Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee in 2002, Saanich planned to erect a life-sized statue of the monarch on the front lawn of municipal hall.

Local sculptor Nathan Scott was asked to make a model-sized version of the Queen first, which featured her sitting on a bench with one of her corgis on her lap, the other at her feet, and a handbag over her arm.

It was this week in 2002 that Saanich scrapped the idea, after Mayor Frank Leonard shared the plans with the Saanich News perhaps a little prematurely.

“Leonard says the ‘intent was to have a celebration to mark the occasion of the Queen’s and clearly we’re not fulfilling the purpose.’ Instead, the proposal was kicked around like a political football,” reads the article in the April 10, 2002 edition of the News.

Then-councillor Carol Pickup, chair of the Saanich Arts Advisory Committee, argued Saanich put the cart before the horse, since the committee hadn’t heard anything of the proposed public art piece, and council hadn’t approved anything. She said the estimated $15,000 cost of the project could be better spent, perhaps establishing a youth arts grant.

Coun. Nichola Wade, who was a member of the Saanich Special Events Committee, laughs when she thinks back to 2002. She says the statue was scrapped for an entirely different reason.

“When the (information) got to (the Lieutenant Governor’s office), we were advised it was never going to pass the approvals process because she had a handbag – the Queen never carries a handbag,” Wade says. “The other thing was because it was proposed for a bench there was the potential that folks could take less than respectful photographs of themselves doing stuff there. And you can understand that that would probably not be in keeping with the image that they have maintained over the years.”

The Victoria branch of the Monarchist League of Canada at the time was “very disappointed” that the issue became political, rather than one to honour the Queen’s 50 years on the throne.

“It was a creative opportunity for us to commemorate the Jubilee, but I don’t think Saanich is any less beautiful as a result of the fact we didn’t get the statue,” Wade says. “We found other ways to commemorate the Jubilee with grants to young people, which while it’s not a physical reminder (of the Queen’s visits to Saanich), it’s an investment in the folks who live here.”

editor@saanichnews.com

••••

In other news this week…

• 1994 – The province announces the acquisition and protection of land between Goldstream Park and the Saanich Peninsula, that will be known as Gowlland Tod Provincial Park. The land had been under private ownership, but the province acquired it after a “number of intense months of negotiations,” said then-environment Minister Moe Sihota. Gowlland Tod Provincial Park spans 1,280 hectares on the east side of Finlayson Arm and the Saanich Inlet.

• 1996 – Felicita’s Pub at the University of Victoria gets the OK from Saanich council to serve liquor on an outdoor patio adjoining the pub. Two councillors didn’t support the proposal, arguing that an academic institution shouldn’t be “spending its resources” on expanding drinking opportunities on-campus, and that UVic doesn’t contribute to municipal taxation so on-campus business shouldn’t expand.

• 2000 – Former Saanich councillor (1987 to 1999) and butcher Ray Williams is found guilty under Canada’s Food and Drug Act for selling and labelling food at his shop in a false, misleading or deceptive manner. Among the charges are selling foreign beef labelled as Canadian beef, and not identifying items that had been previously frozen. In June 2000, he was given a $5,000 fine.

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