B.C.'s Grand Chief Stewart Phillip won't attend royal ceremony with Prince William
'It would not be appropriate for me to participate in a "reconciliation" ceremony at this time'
Stewart Phillip, grand chief of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, won't be there tonight when Prince William adds a ring of reconciliation to a ceremonial staff of the B.C. Legislature.
"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," Phillip said in a statement Monday.
The Black Rod is used in the Legislature when the Queen or lieutenant-governor is present. It has its origins in the British Parliament and is used in Commonwealth countries around the world.
The province said several First Nations have requested the symbol of reconciliation be added to the staff and the ceremony is scheduled to take place at a reception hosted by the province this evening at Government House in Victoria.
But chiefs attending the recent annual general assembly of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs voted not to take part in the ceremony as a protest of provincial and federal government inaction on key First Nations concerns.
UBCIC Secretary Treasurer Judy Wilson said there is no true recognition of Indigenous title and rights when it comes to Site C, Enbridge, Kinder Morgan or Lelu Island.
"The Trudeau government and the government of B.C. cite the number of First Nation agreements, talk of the many issues that need to be addressed, make promises of better times tomorrow in the name of reconciliation — but their actions today demonstrate the opposite."
First Nations issues highlighted by royal tour
The refusal comes on the same day the royal couple travels north to B.C.'s Central Coast to visit the Great Bear Rainforest and the Heiltsuk First Nations community in Bella Bella.
The royal couple has made a point of including several visits to First Nations communities in B.C. and Yukon during their eight-day visit, and reconciliation is seen as one of themes of the royal visit.
Nevertheless, Phillip said, "The chiefs-in-assembly felt it would not be appropriate for me to participate in a 'reconciliation' ceremony at this time."
"The suffering in our communities is too great. I apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused with our decision. We do not mean any disrespect. It is a matter of principle."
With files from The Canadian Press