01/22/2015 12:14 EST | Updated 03/24/2015 05:59 EDT

Nanaimo Empire Days name too colonial, says city council

Nanaimo city council has cut off funding to Nanaimo Empire Days unless organizers agree to change the event's colonial-sounding name.

Nanaimo's Empire Days has taken place over the Victoria Day long weekend since 1837. Activities include a parade, afternoon tea, Maypole dances and fireworks.

The event has also been a source of controversy for many years because of its name and its association with the colonization of First Nations territory.

"Times are changing," said Nanaimo City Councillor Diane Brennan. "The term empire is hurtful. It's a reminder of colonization and oppression of the indigenous people and it's caused great suffering."

Emmy Manson, a councillor with the local Snuneymuxw First Nation, agrees.

"I guess for me it triggers some old history that really isn't positive for our people," said Manson.

That history includes residential schools, loss of language and culture and displacement.

Manson said she and other Snuneymuxw people do not attend the event because of its connotation.

"I get why we celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday," said Manson. "I think that's what it ought to be called."

Festival still welcome

Brennan said the city still welcomes the festival, but it will not offer any public funds until the name is changed.

She said the decision shouldn't come as a surprise to event organizers, as council provided the feedback for years.

Brennan believes organizers have already been having some internal discussions. She hopes this will speed up their conversation.

To listen to the full interviews with Diane Brennan and Emmy Manson, click on the audio labelled: Nanaimo cuts off funding to Empire Days because of colonial connotation