It's been over a year now since the Trudeau government has been in power and there have been concerns raised by First Nations leaders throughout Canada about the lack of action on issues that were part of the federal election commitments.
British Columbian (B.C) First Nations Grand Chief Stewart Phillip has taken a stance in protest over lack of action by declining to attend a ceremony involving royal couple William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Grand Chief Phillip is said to of pulled out of the ceremony at the 11th hour, and told Britain's BBC that as the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, which represents 115 of the provinces' 203 First Nations, he "didn't feel entirely comfortable with the invitation given the reality on the ground".
The ceremony involving the 'Black Rod', a ceremonial staff presented at formal gatherings when the Queen or her representative is present in the B.C. legislature, was to involve the adding of a ring, the last of four, by the Duke, symbolising Aboriginal reconciliation. A news release from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) by Grand Chief Phillip stated that, “reconciliation must move forward beyond this eloquent symbolic gesture."
"With the deepening poverty of our communities, remembering the missing and murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the ongoing negligence of Indigenous Child Welfare policies across this country, in good conscience, I cannot participate in the Black Rod Ceremony."
With the deepening poverty of our communities, remembering the missing and murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the ongoing negligence of Indigenous Child Welfare policies across this country, in good conscience, I cannot participate in the Black Rod Ceremony.
"The suffering in our communities is too great. I apologise [sic] for any inconvenience we may have caused with our decision. We do not mean any disrespect. It is a matter of principle.” Grand Chief Phillip added.
Grand Chief Phillip also referenced the slow response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s Tsilhqot’in decision, which recently handed back title deeds to First Nations owners, the Xeni Gwet'in band of the Tsilhqot', blocking plans for logging by large corporate interests, requiring consultation with traditional owners. Mention was also made of the governments fast tracking of a hydro-electric dam at Peace River.
Chief Robert Chamberlin, Vice-President of the UBCIC, said “Both the federal and provincial governments are expected and called upon in Canada to uphold the honour of the Crown. The Government of B.C’s fast-track ‘to the point of no return’ approach on Site C and the spirit of the Conservative’s ‘stall and litigate’ tactic permeating the Trudeau Government’s handling of T’aaq-wiihak, the implementation of Nuu-chah-nulth Fishing Rights, are two recent examples of why First Nations are heading to the courts to compel both governments to uphold the honour of the Crown.”
The Black Rod ceremony, including the Royals went ahead, as part of their week long tour, although commenced later in the evening than originally intended.