In Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton’s office sits, in its box, a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal that she hasn’t told many people about because she is seriously considering sending it back.
She didn’t ask for it, doesn’t know what led to her nomination and is concerned that she and other mayors receiving the medal dilutes the honour bestowed on more deserving recipients.
“It sits there because I haven’t yet decided on how this should be,” Hamilton said.
In celebration of the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne, a total of 60,000 medals were produced to “honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians,” according to the Governor General’s website.
Recipients come from all walks of life and have included such people as Sidney Crosby and Justin Bieber, along with a great number of citizens honoured for volunteer work in their communities.
Also awarded have been more than 1,000 mayors, by way of nominations made by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. So many, that some have refused to receive them.
Earlier this year, two Ottawa area mayors, Raye-Anne Briscoe of Admaston/Bromley and Peter Emon of Greater Madawaska, returned their medals, believing they received the honour simply because they are mayors.
Not everyone sees the FCM nominations as a problem. With her award coming from the FCM, North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall said the honour was a delightful surprise.
“I thought it was lovely, it was a very nice recognition and I was very touched by that,” Finall said. “I certainly didn’t feel (it was meaningless). With the national body, I felt very honoured.”
It’s a delicate situation, Hamilton said, because she believes the FCM nomination was well intentioned, but also unfairly singles her out from the rest of her council and belittles the awards received by people specifically nominated.
Through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Colwood had the opportunity to recognize nine residents for their various contributions to the community.
“We, as council, went through that process with a very purposeful mindset of recognizing people who often fall under the radar, who do a number of things that benefit our community,” Hamilton said. “I’m torn with it because I don’t want to diminish the meaningfulness of those that we sent out.”
The FCM (a voluntary union of municipalities active since 1901) received 4,000 medals to give away. An initial round of medals allowed municipalities to nominate residents to receive the awards. Approximately 2,500 citizens received medals, based on merit.
After this, all municipalities active with the federation for five years or more were nominated for the award by the FCM, and the mayors received these medals because they had to go to a person, not an entire council.
Of 3,800 mayors across the country, about 1,300 were nominated by the FCM. Of those, some 1,100 to 1,200 received Diamond Jubilee medals, essentially on behalf of their council.
Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard received a Diamond Jubilee medal from the province. He tried not to make a big deal of it because he’s uneasy with politicians giving other politicians awards.
“That part of it I’m not too comfortable with,” Leonard said. “I’m much more interested in the volunteer citizens that we recognized.”
Saanich council was only able to award Diamond Jubilee medals to two citizens. Leonard said there are many more Saanich residents that should have been recognized.
“I just don’t think what I do in public life measures up to anything like what some of the volunteers in our community (do).”
Metchosin Mayor John Ranns received the award through a nomination by local Members of Parliament. As with others, Ranns later learned the FCM was also planning to award him the medal, not realizing he already had one.
“I guess they got stuck with a whole bunch of medals. … I don’t know,” Ranns said with a laugh. “My council put me in for it, and people I’ve got respect for approved it, so that’s all that’s important to me.”
A list of all Diamond Jubilee medal recipients will be released by the Governor General’s office later this spring.