For many Indigenous peoples in Canada, the death of Queen Elizabeth II is not a time to grieve, but a chance to re-examine the monarchy’s legacy of subjugation as colonizers, with leaders calling on the new king to denounce the doctrine of discovery.
Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s oldest monarch, died on Thursday at the age of 96, triggering official mourning periods in the UK and Canada.
But reflecting on his 70-year legacy can evoke painful memories and anger for those who had their land and culture stolen from them in the name of the Crown.
“Since the beginning of colonization, there has always been a difficult relationship with Indigenous peoples here in Canada,” Terry Teegee, regional chief of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, told CTV National News.
“We all know what’s happened over the last 100 years with the residential school policy, as well as really genocidal policies like the Indian Act and putting us on reservations and taking us off our land.
Former Prime Minister Paul Martin recognized this dissonance in a statement on Thursday afternoon honor the Queen’s memory.
“The mention of the Crown evokes a wide range of reactions among Canadians,” he wrote. “Indigenous peoples in particular equate the 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, a life of service and duty has given Her Majesty a unique appreciation of the need to redress the failures of history and to pave the way for change.
With the throne passing to King Charles III, the time for change may have come, Teegee said.
“I think it’s an opportune time to change the relationship with the monarchy, to change that relationship with the crown.”
When Europeans arrived hundreds of years ago on the shores of the land we now call Canada, they used a framework of settlement called the Doctrine of Discovery to justify the seizure of lands already occupied.
The Doctrine of Discovery began as a series of papal bulls and became the legal precedent used by colonizers to claim “undiscovered” lands in the name of their monarch.
While officially rejected by Canada last year, the doctrine has never been denied by the Crown itself.
“What we are asking King Charles III to do is repeal and denounce the Doctrine of Discovery,” Teegee said. “Which allowed the colonization of what we all know as Canada. And what we would also like to see is not just what we called before as an apology, but to further decolonize these lands.
Roseanne Archibald, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, also acknowledged in a statement on Twitter Sunday that the passing of the Queen stirs up complicated emotions for many.
“Let us remember that grief and responsibility can exist in the same space, simultaneously,” she wrote.
She added that the 45th call to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report called for a “Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation to be issued by the Crown” to reaffirm nation-to-nation relationships between Indigenous peoples in Canada. and the Crown.
Part of this call to action is to renounce the Doctrine of Discovery, adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples nationally, and renew or build relationships appropriate conventions to ensure that indigenous peoples are equal partners.
The monarchy is not merely a distant, token overseer for the Indigenous peoples of Canada – there are historic treaties signed by the Crown that are still being reinterpreted in court today, with direct impacts on the Indigenous communities involved.
For example, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled in 2018 that the Crown had an obligation to increase annuities paid under a specific set of treaties.
The Robinson-Huron and Robinson-Superior Treaties, often referred to as the Robinson Treaties, covered the lands around northern Lake Huron and Lake Superior, and were signed in 1850.
In 2001, the Anishinaabe claimants took the case to court, pointing out that a clause in the treaties promised them increased annual annuity payments as incomes increased in the ceded territory. The last time the annuity was recalculated was over 100 years ago, in 1875, when it went from about $1.70 to four dollars per person.
Although the 2018 ruling ruled that the Crown must increase these payments, the lengthy legal battle underscores “that bringing issues of treaty injustices to court is a time-consuming and costly process,” a Yellowhead special report noted. Institute. .
Ensuring that these treaties are upheld and interpreted fairly is an important part of reconciliation, experts say.
It remains to be seen if anything will really change in the relationship between the Crown and Indigenous peoples in Canada now that King Charles III is at the helm.
Archibald told CTV Power Play on Friday that when she met King Charles III recently, before the Queen passed away, she felt he “had real honesty in wanting to be part of the solutions.”
“I asked him to tell his late mother that there must be an apology from the Crown for the failures, and in particular for the destruction of colonization on the First Nations peoples and the role of the Anglican Church and the Crown as the head of that church and many of those institutions of assimilation and genocide,” she said.
Teegee cited King Charles III’s recent visit to the Yukon, where he “chatted with residential school survivors and spoke of the atrocities the monarchy inflicted on Indigenous peoples in Canada and elsewhere,” as a sign that a change might be possible.
“I think there is a real opportunity to change that relationship because as part of reconciliation, we need a change in our relationship not just with the monarchy, but with all levels of government.”
With files from CTV national reporter Vanessa Lee