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Buried at the end of a list of informational items in last week’s council agenda package, is a letter addressed to Merritt’s Mayor and council requesting that May 29 be proclaimed as “Day of the Honey Bee.”
The letter describes the plight of honey bees, which are apparently disappearing at alarming rates — a fact that is concerning to many because these bees are responsible for about a third of the food we eat.
The writer suggests that the primary solution to this problem is education, awareness and proactive initiatives by all levels of government including a “Day of the Honey Bee” proclamation.
So far, Mayor Susan Roline has not issued a proclamation this year, though last year she proclaimed May 29, 2011 as “Day of the Honey Bee” and it is doubtful that any Merritt residents took notice.
Educating the public may well be the best solution to the problem, but issuing a municipal proclamation is not the way to accomplish it.
In the past year, Merritt has issued a variety of proclamations that the general public may not be aware of. For instance, April 2012 was proclaimed as “Daffodil Month,” Nov. 2, 2011 was proclaimed as “Vitamin D Day,” October 2011 was proclaimed as “Foster Family Month,” and Oct. 17-23 was proclaimed as “Canada World Youth Week.”
Proclamations do exist as a way for governments to honour and bring awareness to various causes; however, the proclamations lose their power if they are not accompanied by additional campaigns and local events.
According to the District of North Vancouver’s website, a proclamation is a way to provide valuable education and information to the citizens of a municipality. These are issued at the mayor’s discretion for events that deserve recognition and can be reviewed on a case by case basis.
Other municipalities have questioned the benefit of issuing proclamations. In May 2004, the District of Maple Ridge issued a policy statement that the district would not be issuing anymore proclamations regardless of whether the request was for a worthwhile benefit to the community. Maple Ridge found that proclamations provided limited community benefit and cost administrative funds to process.
Other municipalities have acknowledged these concerns without going so far. In 2008, the Town of Greater Napanee in Ontario considered limiting the issuance of proclamations to those with a municipal purpose such as Fire Prevention Week, Emergency Preparedness Week etc. They cited concerns including overlapping proclamations, which causes competition for municipal resources and the risk of being charged with discrimination if one group were supported and another denied. The town also questioned the general benefit of proclamations.
This option is reasonable and one that the City of Merritt may want to consider. For other requests with wider scope, the city could issue a letter acknowledging the cause. This would surely serve the same purpose without proclaiming a whole week or whole month about something, when no one even knows about it.