WATCH: Victoria mayor Lisa Helps discusses the oath controversy with Sonia Sunger on Upfront
New Victoria mayor Lisa Helps says she’s sorry for any offence caused by her decision not to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen, but that doesn’t mean she’ll call for a re-do.
“I apologize for causing offence,” she said on Upfront. “Am I going to call the judge back and take the oath of allegiance today? I’m not.”
“I think what people want in a leader is someone who’s going to be willing to say, ‘hey, we disagree, and I’m really sorry this disagreement has called offence,’ at the same time, people want a mayor who’s going to be strong in her convictions.”
Helps, who defeated incumbent mayor Dean Fortin by 89 votes in last month’s municipal elections, was joined by three other councillors in opting out of the oath during the new council’s inaugural meeting yesterday.
READ MORE: Victoria’s new mayor decides not to pledge allegiance to the Queen
Helps noted that the oath has been optional for some time and nearby municipalities, including Esquimalt, don’t have an oath of allegiance for municipal politicians at all. But in a city named for a monarch, where afternoon tea can still be had at the famed Fairmont Empress, the decision caused a great deal of controversy. Helps says she has written back to the many people who emailed her.
“It’s a bit of a mixed bag, and has sparked an interesting conversation,” she said.
“What’s a bit distressing is the tone of some of the emails I receive. I welcome disagreement, I welcome differences, that’s how we learn and make better decisions, but I also welcome respect.”
She says she made the decision partly because she only wanted to take the oath serving the people of Victoria, and partly to reaffirm her commitment to the Esquimalt and Songhees First Nations.
In the end, Helps hopes people understand her decision, even if they disagree.
“I apologize for my actions offending people. I really do. The intention was truly not to offend,” she said.
“I have a Masters degree in Canadian History, I’ve taught first-year Canadian History at the University of Victoria three times. I’m well aware of our relationship with the Queen.”
Bruce Hallsor of the Monarchist League of Canada said he was glad to hear the apology, but still is not amused.
“I still really don’t accept the mayor’s explanation for why she shouldn’t take an oath to the queen…but I appreciate when she says she really did this without any ill intent, and I think that’s a first step,” he said.