EDITORIAL: Council members' Oaths of Office -- and a couple of words

Sara Golling
By Sara Golling
November 4th, 2022

At the Prestige Mountain Resort in Rossland on Thursday evening, November 3, newly elected mayors and councillors for Fruitvale, Montrose, Warfield, Rossland and Trail, read out and signed their solemn Oaths of Office before Judge Brown and the assembled crowd of invitees. 

A few were unable to attend the ceremony; they will swear (or affirm) their Oaths of Office privately, or have already done so.

I  noted that some of the Oaths of Office varied slightly from municipality to municipality, but each followed the wording required by the “Local Government Oath of Office Regulation.” 

The final line is “I will perform the duties of my office in accordance with the law.” And, while there is certainly nothing wrong with a determination to adhere to the law, that brought to mind an old saying:  “It’s a poor citizen who lives by the law” – meaning, if the best that can be said of a person’s behaviour is that it’s not illegal, they may not be a very good citizen. A better citizen’s behaviour is also considerate, of a high moral standard, and serves the common good of society.

But we can all hope that all of our newly elected council members will aim for, and achieve, that higher standard of behaviour, despite any shortcomings of the prescribed Oath of Office as perceived by a nit-picking observer.

Speaking of nit-picking, it is quite natural and common for anyone who encounters a multisyllabic word that he or she doesn’t use regularly in speech, to mispronounce it, or stumble a bit over it, especially when standing before a crowd of people all of whom are watching and listening intently. 

The problematic word in this case was “pecuniary” – correctly pronounced “pe kew nee airy.”  A few different pronunciations came out during the ceremony, including one from a person who may have had medical matters in mind and said “pituitary” instead, or another who came up with “pecurinary.”  I mention this not to embarrass anyone, but to offer advice and prevent future embarrassment: find out the correct pronunciation, and then practice correctly pronouncing those seldom-used multisyllabic words until they roll smoothly off your tongue. 

Another word that our elected officials will encounter while in office, and many of our brightest and best have historically mispronounced, is “remuneration,”  meaning “payment” or “compensation for services.” The correct pronunciation is, “ree mew ner ay shun.”  

Remembering the root of this word, “munus,” meaning “gift” may help.  The usual mispronunciation is “ree noom er ay shun,” which is a completely different and rarely-used word – renumeration– which means “counting over again.”  All too easy to confuse, right? The “m” and the “n” just get reversed.

Our new council members will have a lot to learn, except for the Montrose council who are all re-elected incumbents. Ensuring proper pronunciation of a couple of often-mispronounced words may not be high on anyone’s list of priorities, but on the other hand, it’s an easy fix and can improve confidence.

The inaugural council meetings for Fruitvale, Montrose, Trail, and Rossland will be on November 7, 2022. Warfield’s will be on  November 14.

All council meetings are open to the public, except in camera sessions, and interested citizens can learn a great deal about how their community is governed and how each of their council members addresses issues, by attending some meetings – instead of relying on rumour, which is famous for being wrong and often nasty to boot.

The falsehoods and nastiness that are too often spread on social media can discourage good people from standing for election to public office. It’s in everyone’s best interests to curb the spread of those sorts of discouraging words. Disagreeing in a reasoned way with decisions – fine!  But spreading falsehoods designed to tear people down is unhealthy for the entire community.

So if you hear anything disturbing about your council’s decisions or actions, please do check your facts before repeating a rumour to anyone.  Read the minutes; consult a few people who were there, including your council members; and/or attend the next meeting yourself.

It’s a bit more trouble than just repeating gossip, but well worth the effort.


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