Nanaimo Empire Days

United Against EmpireThe Popular Participation Movement, a campus activist group at Vancouver Island University, is hosting a “Rally for Peace, Justice, and Equality” on Sunday, May 17, 2009, as part of the growing efforts to change the name and focus of Nanaimo’s annual Empire Days festivities. The group aims to end Nanaimo’s 140+ year tradition of celebrating empire and this will be the fourth consecutive year of PPM protests at the Empire Days Parade. In 2006 and 2007 they used street theatre and leafleting to raise awareness of the imperialist nature of this popular community event. Last year they hosted a controversial rally and free concert which filled Library Plaza (aka Diana Krall Plaza) with over 500 people attending. A similar event is planned for this year.

“We have received a lot of support in the community on this issue over the years,” said Simon Schachner, the event organizer. “It is an important step forward for us to take as a community and I am sure it will happen.  It is only a matter of time. I realize that there are some who find it difficult to understand our opposition to Nanaimo’s longest running post-colonial tradition. However, is it is necessary to change it if we are to become a community that is respectful of the cultural diversity that exists here and throughout Canada,” said Schachner. “Empire Days is not a celebration of British-Canadian culture but rather a celebration and glorification of empire and that is what is so offensive.”

Way back in 1958 Britain realized that this annual imperial celebration was no longer appropriate and decided to re-brand the event as “British Commonwealth Days” and subsequently as “Commonwealth Days”. Today, Nanaimo and Cumberland, BC, are the only known remaining communities of the former “empire” to continue to celebrate Empire Days.

The slogan for this year’s protest event is “Parades are great, empire is not”. The program includes guest speakers and a free live concert by Canadian reggae icons Fredlocks Asher and The Ultraflex Crew. It starts at 1:30 pm on Sunday, May 17, 2009, immediately after the parade, on Library Plaza (aka Diana Krall Plaza) in downtown Nanaimo.

Grant says: May 17, 2009 at 7:34 am

Silliness. I’d never even heard of it referred to as Empire Days until I read this. Just let the celebration experience a natural growth into something new. No need to “protest” with an in-your-face counter-event imo.

Melvin says: May 10, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Change for changes sake will achieve nothing.
I; having a daughter that participated in Empire Days , have nothing but respect for the organisation.
Had my daughter not participated then,I believe, that Nanaimo would at this time be without the services of an energetic outgoing volunteer who has done much for the community & I’m sure many others would echo this comment.
Their is much “pomp & circumstance” to many organisations their meanings lost in time!
Should you wish for a “rival” organisation then go ahead, be my guest but I think you will fail .