New Westminster council backs outgoing mayor’s bid to ax “Royal City” moniker from branding

Major Jonathan Coté accused of throwing parting “grenade” in form of motion that could prove controversial

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Departing New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté’s motion to rebrand the city, including phasing-out the “Royal City” moniker, was approved by council on Monday night.

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Coté — who is a three-term councilor and two-term mayor — said that when he got involved in municipal politics, city council was examining whether to drop the “Royal City” moniker, but backed away over community concerns.

“I think a lot has changed in the past 15 years, particularly in terms of the work we need to do as an inclusive community and to continue on our journey of reconciliation and this is a really important step,” said Coté, who is not seeking re-election.

“We have many histories that need to be celebrated and focused upon and we have many histories that existed before we were a city that need to be reflected on. Although branding is symbolic, it makes an important statement.”

Coté said it was inappropriate that he sends letters to First Nations on New Westminster stationary with a “colonial crown on top.”

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“The time has come for us to phase it out,” he said.

A photo circa 1866 of a First Nations man paddling his canoe past the fledgling Fraser River community of New Westminster.
A photo circa 1866 of a First Nations man paddling his canoe past the fledgling Fraser River community of New Westminster. Photo by FG ​​Claudet

The city’s logo is centered around a golden crown and linked to Queen Victoria’s decision in the 1860s to name the city after the enclave of Westminster in London. New Westminster was founded as the capital of The Colony of British Columbia in 1858 on the unceded territory of the Qayqayt First Nation.

Coté also asked city staff to develop a plan to engage the community in the development of a new brand identity “that is inclusive and allows for collective pride in the city.”

Several New Westminster businesses use the royal moniker: including Royal City Center mall, Royal City Taxi, Royal City Jewelers Royal City Manor and the New Westminster Royals hockey team. Coun. Nadine Nakagawa is a member of the Royal City Curling Club.

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The only dissenting vote came from Coun. Chuck Puchmayr who said Coté had left a “nice parting grenade” with what he believes will be a controversial decision.

Coté disagreed and said that the name change had been on his mind for several years.

“I don’t believe I have left a grenade,” he said.

Council hopeful Daniel Fontaine, who is running in the October election with the New Westminster Progressive Electors Coalition Society, said there should have been a public consultation before the vote was made.

“Our only indoor pool is closed for two years, our aquatic center project is $8 million over-budget, property taxes are skyrocketing and this is what the council wants to focus on. Is it time to undertake this in the dying days of a regime?,” Fontaine wrote in a letter to Postmedia News.

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