When a new parliamentary session opens each year, traditions steeped in history must take place.
One of the more dramatic ceremonial rites is the ushering of the Black Rod. Among his many duties, when the usher arrives outside the House he must gain entry to summons the members. This stems back to the 1600s, when King Charles I stormed into the House of Commons, attempting unsuccessfully to arrest several members for treason.
Since then, the doors are slammed shut in theatrical violence, until the Usher of the Black Rod knocks three times on the door with the ceremonial Black Rod staff.
But from now on, that rich history will also represent the history of the First Nations as well.
Last year, a new Black Rod was unveiled that reflects the First Nations people. And on Wednesday, with all the pomp and circumstance of a royal visit, the Black Rod was shown to school children at Seabird Island.
“This rod will be before parliament again and again and again,” said Gary Lenz, Sergeant of Arms. “And this time, all of the people will be there.”
Lenz was among the many guests of the celebration in Seabird, including the Honorable Steven Point, Speaker of the House Linda Reid, and mayors, chiefs and councillors of surrounding communities.
The new Black Rod is a beauty to behold.
Made from seven types of wood indigenous to B.C. and decorated with a jade carving by Tsimshian elder Clifford Bolton, the Black Rod will be brought into the legislative chamber whenever the Lieutenant Governor enters to read throne speeches or give royal assent to legislation.
The rod contains a copper time capsule with messages from senior government officials of 2012, to be opened and read in 2072.
The many intricate decorations include a coin made of B.C. silver, a tradition that dates back to 1871, the year B.C. joined confederation.
Point spoke to the school children about the significance of the Black Rod ceremony.
“Our presence as aboriginal people will always be there,” he told them, while urging them to consider a career in government. “We are not just represented in totem poles outside, but the very symbol that brings in government.”
The new Black Rod is a symbol that reconciliation is making a difference, he said.
“You have every reason to be proud. We are never going to be marginalized again. We are never going to be ignored again. We’re going to be recognized as the First Peoples of this great country.”
Point, the former Lieutenant Governor of B.C., said the Black Rod is being applauded by other provincial governments.
“This will live on, and on, and on,” he said. “We are on a new page in the history of this province.”