It seems to be inevitable of empires that they eventually fall and are relegated to the history books as a chapter in human civilization. We stopped celebrating the Romans, the Ottomans and now the British.
The Nanaimo Empire Day Celebration Society’s membership officially voted to cancel all May long weekend events this year after the City of Nanaimo significantly cut back the level of civic funding. For years, groups like the multicultural society and Snuneymuxw First Nation highlighted the oppressive nature of the term ‘empire’ and asked that the nearly 150-year-old festival be renamed to a more inclusive moniker.
‘Empire’ is a holdover from colonial times when it was acceptable to impose one nation’s way of life on another. The term was dropped by British Parliament in 1958; it’s moved on and it’s time we did, too.
But moving on doesn’t mean erasing our history. Prior to the society’s vote, Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay, city staff and members of Snuneymuxw met with the group to discuss tweaking the event to celebrate all contributions to Nanaimo’s heritage. Without the Empire Day Society, though, no one is spearheading that proposal.
McKay has put the word out that he’s looking for community groups to take up the challenge to organize a community heritage festival on the May long weekend.
We hope it happens. It would be a way for our community to march forward, literally. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see a parade with entries by Snuneymuxw, Chinese and Sikh communities to expand the cultural diversity of Nanaimo’s celebrations?
If that doesn’t sound like Empire Days anymore, well, that’s sort of the point. If that isn’t the way things used to be in the old days, that’s because the old days are history.