Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Nova Scotia
Explanation of Municipality's Coat of Arms By J. Stewart LeForte
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Monday, July 21st,1997 was a significant day in the brief history of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. On that day, the Chief Herald of Canada, Mr. Robert D. Watt, presented the Letters Patent granting an official Coat of Arms, Flag and a Badge for the municipality. Following is a description of the principal symbols which will be used to identify the authority, activities, personnel, and property of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
The Coat of Arms:
The central element of any Coat of Arms is the shield. In the case of the Regional Municipality's Coat of Arms the shield has a green background with a Cape Breton Sloop in gold and silver (the sails are white). Around the edge of the shield is a double border of gold with eight maple leaves which are also gold. The primary colours of green and gold were chosen to reflect the Cape Breton tartan. The Cape Breton Sloop was originally recognized and granted in 1820 when Cape Breton was a separate British Colony and is depicted in the Great Seal of Cape Breton (c. 1820). Since it is a bit of a tradition within heraldic circles to chose something to reflect the name of the petitioner, it was felt that this venerable ‘charge' be used in the shield for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. The eight maple leaves honours the legacy of the eight former municipalities which were amalgamated to form the Regional municipality and are linked together by a double border which reflects the amalgamation.
The Great Seal of the Colony of Cape Breton, 1820, depicts a series of boats in a bay or harbour, from which the term ‘Cape Breton sloop' entered the heraldic world. This charge, as such symbols are called in the language of heraldry, also appears on the Coat of Arms of the University College of Cape Breton, which received its official, and revised, Coat of Arms in 1995. As well, the Cape Breton Sloop appeared on the Coats of Arms of the City of Sydney and the Town of North Sydney, both of which had petitioned for, and were granted, official Coats of Arms. The use of this charge, the Cape Breton Sloop, refers not only to the fishing industry, but also recalls that many of our ancestors arrived in Cape Breton by boat. This same ‘Great Seal' provided one of the mottoes which will be discussed later in this article.
Above the shield rests what is called the Crest. The Crest which was assigned for the Regional Municipality consists of a mural coronet with an open gate, called a portcullis which is raised, between two windows. Out of the top of the walled coronet is a phoenix rising from flames - the phoenix is depicted in this particular crest as a Bald Eagle.
The mural coronet, which is basically a crown or coronet made of stone, is usually assigned to municipalities and recalls the ancient tradition of walled towns and cities in medieval times which were used for the protection of the residents - such as the Fortress Louisbourg. The colours of this particular mural coronet reflects the dominant colours of the shield - Green and Gold. The portcullis is in a raised position to recall that the Regional Municipality is the Gateway to Canada's 10th Province; as well, it recalls the historic gateway that Cape Breton provided to those emigrating to the ‘new world' from Europe and other parts of the world. It is also a symbol of the generous hospitality for which Cape Bretoners are noted.
Looking closely at the crest, one can see an ‘open hearth' motif - to recall the steel industries in both Sydney Mines and in Sydney. The phoenix rising from the flames is a sign of new life, of hope in the future. Again, there is an allusion to the demise of the "incorporated status" of the eight former municipalities - according to legend, the phoenix rises from its own ashes. In our particular case, the shield and the crest honours the legacy of the eight former incorporated municipalities and acknowledges the fact that the amalgamation depends on these communities working together for a better future. The phoenix is depicted as a bald eagle because this magnificent bird is found throughout the municipality and is also a symbol of the growth of the importance of tourism to our economy. During the formal presentation ceremonies on the 21st of July, the Glace Bay Summer Jazz Band played a well known Cape Breton song "We'll Rise Again" by Leon Dubinski - a song from the famous Cape Breton Summertime Revue which reflects the determination and perseverance which has been characteristic of our citizens, both past and present.
On each side of the shield is an animal, which are called supporters because they act to support the shield on it's base. The horse on the left, as you look at the Coat of Arms, is a reference to the many 'pit ponies' - both as a tribute to the Coal miners and their families, and to the pit ponies themselves which lived underground for 50 weeks of each year, and like the miners often died at, or from, their work. The important legacy of the coal miners and their families is reflected in the collar of black diamonds which the horse is wearing around its neck. Suspended from the collar is a pendant depicting a garb of wheat. Traditionally, the garb of wheat represents both farming and hospitality. Cape Bretoners are well-known for their hospitality - and often invite others to ‘break bread' with them. Agriculture is once again becoming an important element in the economy of the region.
On the right of the shield as you look at it, is a unicorn. The unicorn, a mythical beast, is depicted in the Coat of Arms of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia. As the third level of government, the Municipality kept this elusive animal to represent the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of our youth. According to the legend, only the pure of heart can capture the unicorn - and such is true for the dreams of our youth. The unicorn is depicted wearing a collar of steel rails (which are presented by cross-sections of the steel rails). Again, the Armorial achievement pays tribute to the men and women who have been involved in the steel making industry. Suspended from the Collar of Steel Rail is a pendant which depicts a fiddle and bow - representing the music and creative abilities which are so much a part of the lives of the residents of the municipality.
The Shield and the Supporters are shown standing on a quay, or wall of stone, to recall the various fortifications around the Regional Municipality. In particular, this wall of stone recalls the famous Fortress Louisbourg and the World War II fortifications around Sydney Harbour, as well as the many wharfs and ports which are protected by walls of stone, are recalled by this wall of stone.
The quay, or wall of stone, is curved around a cape promontory - this promontory is a direct reference to the name of the municipality. (During the discussions it was pointed out that there is an area called Cape Breton located outside of Port Morien). On the cape promontory are fir trees to represent the people involved in the lumber industry together with several mayflowers, the provincial flower of Nova Scotia. The location of the municipality in relation to the ocean is portrayed by the blue and white wavy lines which complete the portion of the coat of arms which is called the compartment.
To complete the Coat of Arms there are two mottoes: The one above the crest "A Community of Communities" reflects the amalgamation of the eight former municipal units. The bottom motto: "Fortuna Non Mutat Genus" is taken directly from the Great Seal of the Colony of Cape Breton. This Latin inscription can be translated as "Circumstances Do Not Change Our Origin". Again, there is an indirect reference to the continued existence of the former incorporated municipalities as communities within the amalgamated unit. For example, just ask a person where they are from - they are more apt to state that they are from Glace Bay, New Waterford, etc, rather than the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. As well, the residents of the municipality are usually very proud of their heritage and ethnic origins and continue many of the customs and traditions that they inherited from their ancestors.
The flag is very beautiful in its simplicity - it is basically the green shield with the Cape Breton Sloop in Gold and White (the sails) surrounded by the double border connecting the eight maple leaves. Like the flag of Canada, the flag for the Regional Municipality will be readily identifiable because it is so unique.
Part of the Letters Patent, presented by the Chief Herald of Canada, granting the Coat of Arms and a Flag to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality included the description for an official Badge. This badge is basically 8 golden interlaced maple leaves joined together at their stems; and over the maple leafs is an green octagon bearing the Cape Breton Sloop in gold (yellow) and silver (white).The octagon refers to the entity that was formed by this amalgamation. Surmounting the octagon is the Cape Breton Sloop, taken from the Great Seal of Cape Breton.
This distinctive symbol can be used by the municipality in a variety of ways which will be determined as the need arises. For example, the badge can be used on blazers, by employees, in advertisements, as well as identifying various types of municipal property.
The sub-committee consisted of then Deputy Mayor Clarence Prince as Chairperson, Councillors Art MacDonald and Wes Stubbert, Mr. James MacCormack, Corporate Services Administrator, and two citizen appointees who were expected to have some knowledge of the art and science of heraldry. The citizen appointees were Mr. Barry Gabriel, former Curator of the Art Gallery at the University College of Cape Breton who has applied for his own personal Coat of Arms and is a member of the Heraldry Society of Canada; and Mr. Stewart LeForte, a member of the Heraldry Society of Canada, The Heraldry Society of England, and the American College of Heraldry, and who was granted his own Coat of Arms on April 23 1996 by the Canadian Heraldic Authority. The committee met for over a year seeking input from residents of the municipality, looking at various designs, and working in collaboration with the office of the Chief Herald in the development of the Coat of Arms, and presented its results to Regional Council for its approval. The committee sought throughout the process to honour the residents of the municipality thought the various elements that were included in the final design.