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Indigenous leaders reflect on monarchy’s colonial legacy

For many natives across Canada, Queen Elizabeth II’s death was not an occasion to mourn, but an opportunity to re-examine the monarchy’s legacy of colonial submission. , with leaders calling on the new King to abandon the Doctrine of Discovery.

Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s longest-serving monarch, died at the age of 96 on Thursday, sparking a period of official national mourning in both the UK and Canada.

But reflecting on her 70-year legacy can bring back painful and angry memories for those who have had their land and culture stolen in the name of the Crown.

“Since the beginning of colonization, there has always been a difficult relationship with the indigenous peoples here in Canada,” Terry Teegee, BC Council’s First Nations Regional Head, told CTV National News. .

“We all know what happened over the last 100 years with boarding school policy, as well as real genocide policies like the Indians Act and placing us in reserve zones. store us and take us out of our land.”

Former Prime Minister Paul Martin acknowledged this discord in a Thursday afternoon statement honor the memory of the Queen.

“The mention of the Crown evoked many reactions from Canadians,” he wrote. “Indigenous peoples in particular equate Monarchy with a long history of colonization and domination. The complex task of reconciliation continues to challenge Canada, and there is no doubt in my mind that a lifetime of service and duty has provided Her Majesty with a unique appreciation of the need to resolve these frustrations. defeat of history and pave the way for change. “

With the throne passed to King Charles III, this could be the time for a change, Teegee said.

“I think this is an opportunistic moment to change the relationship with the monarchy, change that relationship with the crown.”

When the Europeans appeared hundreds of years ago on the shores of what we now call Canada, they used a colonial framework known as the Doctrine of Discovery to justify land grabs. was occupied.

The Doctrine of Discovery began as a series of papal bulls and became the legal precedent used by the colonists to claim “undiscovered” land in the name of their monarch.

Although it was officially rejected by Canada last year, the doctrine has never been abandoned by the Crown itself.

“What we are calling on King Charles III to do is repeal and denounce the Doctrine of Discovery,” said Teegee. “This has allowed the colonization of what we know as Canada. And what we also want to see is not just what we have called before as an apology, but to further decolonize these lands.”

Roseanne Archibald, Country of the First Council of Nations, also acknowledged in a statement on Twitter On Sunday, the Queen’s departure brought complicated emotions to many.

“Remember that grief and accountability can coexist in the same space,” she wrote.

She added that the 45th call to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report called for a “Royal Declaration of Reconciliation Issued by His Majesty the King” to reaffirm the relationship. nationalities between the natives of Canada and the Crown.

Part of this call to action is to abandon the Discovery Doctrine, adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples nationally, and renew or establish treaty relationships. appropriate to ensure that indigenous peoples are equal partners.

The monarchy is not merely a distant, symbolic custodian of the Indigenous peoples of Canada – there are historic treaties signed by the Crown that are still being reinterpreted in the courts today , with direct impacts on the indigenous communities involved.

For example, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled in 2018 that the Crown is obligated to increase the amount of annuities paid in connection with a specific set of treaties.

The Robinson-Huron and Robinson-Superior treaties, commonly known as the Robinson treaties, concerned the land around the north side of Lake Huron and Lake Superior, and were signed in 1850.

In 2001, Anishinaabe’s plaintiffs took the case to court, pointing out that a provision in the treaties promised them an increased annual annuity payment along with increased revenue in the surrendered territory. The last time the annuity amount was recalculated was over 100 years ago in 1875, when it was increased from about $1.70 to $4 per person.

While the 2018 decision ruled that the Royal Family needed to increase these payments, the lengthy legal battle emphasized “bringing issues of treaty injustice in court is a process of expensive and time-consuming process,” a special report from the Yellowhead Institute points out.

Experts say ensuring that these treaties are upheld and equitably interpreted is a huge part of reconciliation.

Whether anything will really change in the relationship between the Crown and the natives in Canada today when King Charles III is at the helm remains to be seen.

Archibald told CTV’s Power Play on Friday that when she recently met King Charles III, before the Queen’s death, she felt he was “really honest about wanting to be part of the solutions.”

“I asked him to contact his late mother that there should be an apology in front of the crown for the failures, and especially the devastation of colonization on the people of First Nations and the role of the Anglican Church and the crown as head of that church, and many institutions of assimilation and genocide,” she said.

Teegee mentioned King Charles III’s recent visit to the Yukon, where he “speaks to survivors of the residential school and talks about the atrocities the monarchy has inflicted on the natives in Canada and elsewhere,” as an indication of possible change.

“I think there is a real opportunity to change that relationship because as part of reconciliation we need a change in our relationship with not only the monarchy but with all authorities”.


With files from CTV National News Correspondent Vanessa Lee

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