Coat of Arms, The Rest Of The Story

Coat of Arms, The Rest Of The Story

By John Swartz

Last week councillor Jay Fallis asked council for a report on the feasibility of changing the City’s Coat of Arms – again. He said someone brought to his attention the colour of the paddler in the Coat of Arms, red, is problematic.

It is, if one assumes it’s supposed to be a Native person. According to John Emberson, who designed the Coat of Arms previous to the one hanging over Mayor Steve Clarke in council chambers, the intent was to make that element be ambiguous. There have been several versions over the decades of Orillia’s Coat of Arms, one of which we know had a representation of a Native figure.

Orillia Coat of Arms pre Emberson’s involvement

“Everybody’s calling it an Indian and it’s a paddler because it can be you, or it can be them. It’s inclusive. It’s a common skin colour,” Emberson said of his version.

“If you look at the early one, he looks like he’s got a Mohawk, and look at the size of the paddler. The paddler is as long as the canoe. It was just a bad piece of artwork.  That was the only artwork we had from the printers when we were doing the EDC’s (Economic Development Committee).” Emberson said.

His involvement started back in the late 80s when he was asked to create some graphics to be used by the EDC, one part of which was using the Coat of Arms. As noted in another story on this subject, councillor Ted Emond, then mayor, was one of the people who thought it needed redesigning because of the reasons noted by Emberson above.

“We took the coat of arms and looked at how crappy it was and did a redraw on it. The guy in the canoe was tan in my design,” said Emberson.

That design was then used as the basis for the Orillia Police department’s patch, which as one can see, more closely resembles the Coat of Arms which was in use by the City in the 90s. That’s the one which was known as having the dogs with antlers on it. As can be seen by Emberson’s artwork the translation to the official version left something to be desired as far as the image of the deer is concerned. Also note, the colour of the paddler.

“I contacted the governor general’s office and found out the story of heralding, to have it officially heralded you have to submit (a drawing) to them.”

One thing he found out, it is forbidden to use the regal crown in an official design, so he came up with a new one. He also added the fish weirs, which Emberson said, “was to give the respect to our indigenous heritage. The weirs are much more identifiable.”

Chief herald’s 90s version based on Emberson’s art.

“When we submitted that to them, they made all these other statements about what things had to be changed and sent us the design the City uses right now.”

Until then, it appears the City had no official decree from the herald and there are some strict guidelines about how to depict certain elements and what colours can be used.

“That’s my artwork based on the governments instructions,” Emberson said. “Once they accept the thing, then the government does their official drawing and heralds it.”

Colours are adjusted to what is official and how each element is drawn in its final stage is also regulated. Somehow the deer, or more correctly – stags, weren’t up to snuff for the herald and they became poor depictions resembling dogs.

“Their drawing is really flaky as far as I’m concerned,” Emberson said. “He added the rays from the sun that copies the rays from the (official) flag, and that complicated it too.”

Not all Coats of Arms many municipalities and others use in Canada are heralded. A Google search will reveal many variations regarding elements used and colours, but the official ones are easy to spot – they have a sameness most obvious with the colouring.

“If you look at Severn Township’s, they’d never get it certified. They’d have to have it all reworked,” Emberson said.

So in the first official 90s version, the paddler was changed by the herald from Emberson’s artwork to be the same colour as the canoe – red. The newest version, which was changed in 1999 mainly to correct the dogs with antlers, carried through that colour change decision. Despite Emberson’s intentions, the colour change reinforced perception it’s a Native in the canoe, and of course, making it look like a Redman just isn’t going to fly anymore – if ever it should have.

It can be change without too much trouble.

“I believe it’s a reasonable request to ask to change the colour of the paddler,” said Emberson. “They just have to send a letter and ask the governor general’s office if they can change the colour. A letter to the chief herald should suffice.”

(Images Supplied) Main: The current Orillia Coat of Arms heralded in 1999.


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