TISDALE, Sask. – The mayor of a town in northern Saskatchewan sighs at the prospect of having to explain yet again what the community’s slogan really means. Tisdale has been called the “Land of Rape and Honey” for nearly 60 years and its weathered welcome sign still sports the phrase.
Rape refers to rapeseed, a bright yellow crop that was a precursor to the modern canola and a key agriculture product of the area. But it offends people who think it means sexual assault.
“We’re at that point where we need to change it,” says Al Jellicoe, a local accountant and Tisdale’s mayor.
The town is holding a survey, asking its 3,200 residents whether they want to keep the name or come up with a new one.
Jellicoe says one or two complaints come into his office every year from people across Canada and even the United States who are incensed by the slogan.
Then there’s the problem of clarifying the double meaning while talking business.
“Once you explain, it eases things up a bit,” says Jellicoe. “But when you’re trying to deal internationally or nationally – I don’t want to do that every time we entice a business to the area.”
Devan Tasa, editor of the Tisdale Recorder, says the town about 210 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon established the slogan back in 1958. It has created controversy for the past couple of decades.
In 1992, the newspaper published a letter from an Ontario woman who was upset about the word “rape.” The town held a survey that year. The vote was split, the slogan stayed.
Tasa says some people wanted to keep the phrase because rapeseed and honey had been so important to the town. Others didn’t want outsiders messing with their affairs.
Those in favour of a change just thought it was time. And they didn’t want “rape” on their business cards.
The latest survey notes that rapeseed now accounts for less than one per cent of crops in the region and honey production has also dropped.
Kim Markwart, owner of a jewelry store on the main street, says lots of communities keep outdated slogans to honour their history. She also hasn’t met anyone offended on her business travels who is offended.
While past president of the Canadian Jewellers Association, Markwart gave members at meetings small tubs of honey as gifts from home, along with printouts of Tisdale’s slogan and an explanation of its history.
“Everybody was ‘Oh, that’s rapeseed, canola. OK, we get it.’ And to this day, everybody remembers me because of the slogan, because of the uniqueness of that.”
The survey runs to July. If the results are close, the mayor says town council will decide – although even its members are divided on the issue.
Jellicoe hopes the survey will at least mine some good suggestions for a new slogan. Other phrases used before in the community include “Hub of the Northeast” and “A Place to Grow.”
Jellicoe says one he likes the best, one that explains it all, is “Land of Rapeseed and Honey Bees.”
© 2015 The Canadian Press