It’s being called a snub, but that is an unfair characterization of Grand Chief Stewart Phillip’s refusal to take part in a royal reconciliation ceremony.
With the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in B.C., officials decided this would be a good time to add a Ring of Reconciliation to the Black Rod in a ceremony at Government House.
Grand Chief Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, declined to participate, with the backing of the Chiefs-in-Assembly.
Leaving aside the question of the amount of fawning going on over “the Royals,” the refusal to participate was not a snub, but a rejection of a symbolic ritual unrelated to what is really going on in the reconciliation process.
Some leaders, including former B.C. lieutenant-governor, the Honourable Steven Point of the Sto:lo First Nation, chose to support the ceremony, and their personal reasons for doing so should be respected. But for Phillip, it was a matter of principle.
The reality is that while first steps have been made on the road to reconciliation, there is much more work on recognition of indigenous rights and title to accomplish — Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights, following through on the Tsilhqot’in decision, Site C and others, along with poverty in First Nations communities, missing and murdered indigenous women, child welfare and other issues.
Phillip and the UBCIC should be honoured for their commitment to their personal values and ongoing advocacy.
We can only hope that long before Prince William returns to Canada on his first royal visit as King William, we will be ready for a reconciliation ceremony that will be more than symbolic. (And yes, that is a long way off in the future.)