The historic city of New Westminster, often referred to as the “Royal City” for over a century, is contemplating a rebranding initiative that includes searching for a new motto. The decision to explore this transformation was made during a recent city council meeting.
New Westminster, a city in British Columbia, Canada, received its regal moniker when it was named by Queen Victoria in 1859. The title has been part of the city’s identity ever since, symbolizing its historical connection to the British monarchy.
However, the move to reconsider the city’s branding has not been without controversy. Deane Gurney, representing the New Westminster Heritage Preservation Society, expressed surprise and concern about the decision. He mentioned that there was no consultation with community stakeholders, and the sudden change did not sit well with many who value the city’s historical identity as the Royal City.
New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote initiated the rebranding discussion. He explained that a similar proposal to remove the Royal City moniker had been considered a few years ago but was met with significant community opposition. However, he believes that the time is right for a change, especially in light of ongoing efforts toward reconciliation with Indigenous communities.
Cote emphasized that the term “Royal City” may not be inclusive enough and may not fully represent the city’s diverse population and its rich history beyond British settlement. He sees this moment as an opportunity to engage in a dialogue about evolving the city’s branding.
Despite Mayor Cote’s intentions, not everyone sees the rebranding as an example of reconciliation with Indigenous communities. Some argue that the focus should be on recognizing the historical treatment of Indigenous people since the arrival of European settlers rather than changing the city’s name.
Rhonda Larrabee of the Qayqayt First Nation, who supports the rebranding, highlights the historical significance of Indigenous communities in the area. She notes that Indigenous people were displaced from their land in 1916 by the McKenna-McBride commission, and acknowledging this history is an essential part of reconciliation.
The rebranding initiative has sparked a lively debate in New Westminster, with differing opinions on whether changing the city’s name is a step toward inclusivity and reconciliation or a loss of historical identity. As discussions continue, the city faces the challenging task of finding a new identity that reflects its past while embracing its future.