Symbol of Ontario legislative authority goes on a summer vacation to the James Bay coast

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.

The ceremonial Mace from the Ontario Legislature, which is adorned with two diamonds from De Beers Canada’s Victor Mine near Attawapiskat, went on a summer vacation earlier this month.  This symbol of authority at Queen’s Park made its first trip outside the Legislature since 1867 and toured the Victor Mine and communities on the James Bay coast. 

The first and second diamonds mined, cut and polished in Ontario, which were donated by De Beers Canada, were encrusted in the Mace when it was refurbished in 2009.  Accompanying the Mace on its rare summer vacation were Speaker of the Ontario Legislature Steve Peters, his Sergeant-at-Arms, Queen’s Park officials and the local MPP for Timmins-James Bay Gilles Bisson.

“Visiting the Victor Mine was an excellent opportunity to bring the diamonds, which grace the Ontario Legislature’s Mace, back to the people who mined them and the First Nations whose lands the diamonds came from,” said Mr. Peters, who also served as Ontario’s Minister of Labour from 2005 to 2007.  “The health and safety practiced by De Beers is commendable and something every organization and company should aspire to attain.”  

The Mace was on display during a shift change at the mine, so employees could see their work displayed on an important piece of Ontario’s history.  “Our employees are passionate about our product and the contribution they make to our company and communities in which we operate,” said Tom Ormsby, De Beers Canada Director of External and Corporate Affairs.  

“The Ontario Legislature wanted to thank De Beers Canada and the community partners for their tremendous interest in Ontario’s history,” said Mr. Bisson.  “This trip allowed us to showcase the beauty of Northern Ontario both through the products that are mined and the people who make that possible.” 

De Beers Canada donated a third diamond to Queen’s Park, which is on permanent display in the Legislature showing the gems’ travels from “Mine to Mace.”  Also, OMA member Vale donated three ounces of platinum, which were used in the new setting for the Mace.  

This is the third Mace used in legislative assemblies in Ontario. The first, which dates back to 1792 and the assembly of Upper Canada, was captured by Americans during the War of 1812 and returned in 1934.  Under these circumstances, Ontario’s Mace made an unscheduled expedition outside of the Legislature.  The second Mace was lost in a fire in 1916 after being sent to Ottawa in 1867. The “new” Mace, now spruced up with Ontario diamonds and platinum, was originally created in 1867 — the year of Confederation.

While the Mace has come to symbolize authority in legislative bodies, we need to remember that it is wielded by the Sergeant-at-Arms in the Legislature. It was originally a weapon first developed about 12,000 BC and it is believed to be the first weapon developed by man to kill his own kind. In England, King Richard I, in about 1189, created his personal royal body guards — called Sergeants-at-Arms — for protection against unruly subjects. Their weapon of choice was the Mace.

The Victor Mine officially opened in July 2008 and represents an original capital investment by De Beers Canada of more than $1 billion. We can’t say for sure whether, or not, diamonds and platinum in the Mace will better protect the Speaker of the House during legislative sessions. 

However, maybe they will help our legislators take into account the contributions of mining to Ontario’s society and economy, when they are on the job. Also, these donations of OMA members to this important piece of living history both recognize the role of mining in the development of Ontario and the industry’s role in its future.

July 20, 2011

In 2010, De Beers Canada employed 1,087 people and injected $474 million directly in the Canadian economy.

At the Victor Mine in Ontario, De Beers Canada spent about $92 million in 2010 on goods and services with $49 million, or 53% of total, being supplied by Aboriginal businesses.