The swearing-in of the mayor and council is usually a celebratory affair. But the mayor of Rossland had some choice words for provincial officials before Monday night’s ceremony.
Mayor Kathy Moore said she was angry the city was told it couldn’t use the Rossland courthouse to host the inauguration.
“I said, ‘This is just crazy,” Moore said before the ceremony began. “They should be embarrassed.”
The city, along with Warfield, Fruitvale and Montrose, has traditionally used the grand old Rossland courthouse for the swearing-in. With its Victorian architecture, ornate wood furniture and stained glass windows, it’s a grand backdrop to such an event.
“It’s a very solemn, lovely ceremony we do with our neighbouring municipalities and elected officials,” said Moore. “It’s a tradition. It’s beautiful. The judge is in full robes, it’s a lovely, lovely ceremony.”
In July, the city wrote to the province to give a heads-up that it wanted to use the courthouse again after this year’s municipal election. The city thought it was a slam-dunk request.
But officials had to wait until late last month to get a reply. And it was not what they expected to hear.
“They take all this sweet time to get back to us to say ‘no’ for something we’ve done forever,” Moore said.
“The primary purpose of the courthouse is a place where litigants come to have their cases heard by independent and impartial judges, masters and registrars,” wrote Karen Leung, an official with the office of the chief judge of B.C., in a letter to the city. “It is important for public confidence in the administration of justice that the courthouses be continued to be seen as places worthy of the respect that the public places in them.”
Leung also cited security and other costs associated with leaving the building open after regular office hours as reasons the chief judge was not allowing the ceremony to take place.
“If you read the letter, it’s pretty insulting to elected officials,” said Moore. “It makes it sound like we’re sleazy politicians, like the Hell’s Angels wanted to come in.”
Moore wrote back to justice officials to express her feelings.
“I categorically disagree that the solemn swearing-in ceremony of the officials elected to uphold legislated responsibilities and thoughtfully guide the municipalities for the next four years would in any way compromise the public’s respect for the courthouse,” she wrote to Leung, adding the city could consider covering any associated costs with using the building.
“In any case, I don’t imagine this additional plea will change anything at this late date,” she continued. “[B]ut I feel compelled to express my disappointment and request that you share it with both the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Perhaps this policy can be reconsidered prior to the next election.”
The city had to scramble to find an alternative location. The swearing-in was held at a non-descript banquet room in the Prestige Inn instead. A judge, dressed in plain business attire, attended the proceedings.