Opinion: Colour Matters

By John Swartz

I read councilor Jay Fallis’s enquiry request listed in Monday’s agenda and thought, what? He wanted a report on the feasibility and costs of updating the City’s Coat of Arms to “provide an accurate and respectful representation of the Indigenous paddler.”

I looked at the coat of arms and thought, what’s wrong with that? Nothing looked off.

I hoped someone would add to the request to have the deer redone too. It took a lot of years of ribbing over the ‘dogs with antlers’ for that part to change – into deer of Herculean proportions like I’ve never seen a live example of.

Then I listened to what Fallis said of his request.

Councillor Jay Fallis

“Someone in the Indigenous community had reached out to me and brought to my attention a problem with the visual imagery of our coat of arms,” Fallis said. “Where there was some concern was around the colour with the Indigenous paddler being red.”

Of course.

I feel dumb having taken the time to look at the coat of arms and the colour of the Native representation did not register. This needs to be fixed right away. Having it brought to council’s attention and the public, there should no excuse for delay.

The current Coat of Arms was adopted in 1999, In fact, I’m wondering now how it is the first look by whoever was present to  pass the design didn’t raise an objection to the colour, or how 8 councillors, mayor and however many staff were involved also didn’t raise the point.

But then it’s silly to expect anyone would when even I, someone who understands the issues (to some degree) the Native community has been raising for a very long time, didn’t notice despite the many times I’ve seen the coat of arms and despite taking the time over the weekend to try and figure out what Fallis was up to.

During discussion on the request, which council approved, councillor Ted Emond had an interesting comment.

“Thirty years ago the mayor of the day razed exactly the same question,” Emond said (who was that mayor). The main concern was the positioning and relative size of the Native/canoe element in context of the other elements. A new coat of arms was created – which became the one many called the dogs with antlers version – but with improved proportions for the paddler.

“Here in the short 30 years we have a view what was then an appropriate image is no longer seen as an appropriate image,” said Emond.

The problem is, colours used by those who design official Coats of Arms are standardized. If you look, it does not matter how many times and places a blue is used in a given Coat of Arms it’s the same hue, shade and saturation. Same goes for the red and so on. Designers can change the standard colours to a degree, but usually for all elements of a colour, not one element. Look at the current Orillia Coat of Arms. All the reds are the same. There are only 11 official colours and a flesh tone is not one of them. This may account for why no one thought something looked odd.

Fallis wants culture department to work with the original designer and the Canadian Heraldic Authority to report back on changes. Maybe this results in change for all future designs of Coats of Arms across the country. Good on you, councillor Fallis.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia; Image Supplied)


Support Independent Journalism