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Letter: City council has no power to rename Discovery Day

["St. John's City Hall. — file photo"]
St. John’s city hall. — Telegram file photo

I wish to comment on the article “Discovery Day done in St. John’s” which was in The Telegram on Aug. 7, 2018. Once again, our virtue-signalling city council — albeit, very narrowly —proposed to do away with the provincially designated Discovery Day. As noted in the article, even Mayor Danny Breen seemed dubious about the process in this matter. He plainly indicated the process was ultra vires or beyond the power of city council to change the name of Discovery Day. He rightly indicated the matter was one of provincial jurisdiction and responsibility and it is not the city’s role to make such a change.

In other words, the city council has acted unlawfully because there is no legal authority for city council to do what it did in trying to reject the name of Discovery Day in the city. Their motion to change the name to St. John’s Day for the city is what a lawyer would deem null and void ab initio, that is, meaning wrong from the very beginning. The lawful name for Discovery Day remains the same irrespective of city council’s unlawful motion.

It has no more legal standing than if I were to advise the city I am changing the name of Discovery Day.

This writer has contacted all members of city council asking by what legal authority did city council have to change the name of Discovery Day. I received not a single response on this legal authority issue from any of the councillors except a meagre response from Mayor Breen indicating he did not vote for the motion. Coun. Jamie Korab subsequently confirmed he, too, and some others did not vote for the Coun. Maggie Burton motion. No one on city council addressed the legal authority issue to me for the legal basis of the Burton motion to change the name of Discovery Day.

One would have thought Burton would have at least provided an answer, but it seems she is unable to justify her motion under any legal authority. I ask, therefore, for city council to disclose to the public by what legal authority do they justify this change the name of Discovery Day motion. When next June 24 arrives, the legal name — unless the province regrettably has changed it — for the day is still Discovery Day.

The unlawful change-the-name motion by Burton merely reflects the personal bias of five St. John’s city councillors. It has no more legal standing than if I were to advise the city I am changing the name of Discovery Day. In my opinion, Mayor Breen would be within his legal rights — perhaps even duty — not to forward the unlawful motion to the provincial government.

I would like to add it is historically inaccurate and ludicrous for city council to propose that the new name for June 24th observation in the city should be St. John’s Day. June 24 is not a date relevant for St. John’s to observe as a special date of the year. That would be Aug. 5, because it was on Aug. 5, 1583 that Sir Humphrey Gilbert founded the City of St. John’s. There is a plaque on the waterfront (unless our social justice revisionists have removed it) celebrating the Aug. 5, 1583 date and noting it was the beginning of the British Empire.

Now that is truly something worth celebrating for us townies.

Robin Reid

St. John’s

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