Grand Chief Stewart Phillip will not meet with royal family during British Columbia visit
By: Brady Coyle, Staff Writer
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge toured western Canada last week, and while many Canadians were excited about their visit, not everyone was rolling out the welcome mats.
Part of Prince William and Kate’s visit to British Columbia was in honour of the Black Rod ceremony, a gathering in reconciliation with members of the province’s Indigenous communities. Prior to the event, Stewart Phillip, Grand Chief of the Union of B.C. Chiefs, announced he would not be attending the ceremony, as a form of protest.
“The Chiefs in assembly felt it would not be appropriate for me to participate in a ‘reconciliation’ ceremony at this time,” Phillip said in a statement on Monday morning.
The Black Rod is a ceremonial staff that was created in 2012 in order to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Before last Monday, the Black Rod had three rings on it: one that represented British Columbia, one that represented Canada, and one that represented the connection to the U.K. Prince William added a fourth ring to the staff. This new ring represents the connection between the Crown, the Indigenous population, and the province.
The problem with this ceremony for Grand Chief Phillip, and many members of the Indigenous community, is that they do not believe this ceremony truly reflects the relationship between the Indigenous population, the Canadian government, and the crown.
“The current Crown approach of deny and delay cannot continue,” Grand Chief Ed John, a First Nations leader who attended the event, said. “The status quo has not served Indigenous people well.”
Not only is there opposition to the crown’s relationship with Indigenous people, there are many who feel that Canada’s federal government has not delivered on promises to renew relationships with Aboriginal peoples of Canada.
“We’re sick and tired of the lofty, eloquent rhetoric on the part of Prime Minister Trudeau,” Phillip said.
Justin Trudeau, who won a majority government in the 2015 federal election, ran on a platform that focused on Indigenous rights, repealing anti-Aboriginal legislation and bridging the poverty gap, as well as investing more money in Indigenous education. So far, Indigenous leaders, including Phillip, do not feel he has lived up to his commitments.
Reconciliation is an issue that affects all Canadians. Even Gord Downie touched on Indigenous rights during the Tragically Hip’s final concert. While stating support for Prime Minister Trudeau, he urged Canadians to hold the Liberal government accountable for their promises of improving the quality of life for the Indigenous population.
While many of Canada’s Indigenous leaders do not think the time to celebrate reconciliation is upon us, they do believe it is achievable. British Columbia Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson, who attended the ceremony, believes it was a step in the right direction, but reminded Canadians and the Crown that there is still a ways to go.
“We must remember that reconciliation is not merely symbolic, nor is it a destination,” Gottfriedson said, “it is an action and a journey that must manifest in relationship building.”