The Queen's Role in Reconciliation

The Queen's Role in Reconciliation

Posted on March 22 by Nathan Tidridge in News
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Fundamental changes are being triggered in these lands. Curricula are being rewritten across the country by provincial ministries of education to incorporate treaty education and Indigenous perspectives in their education systems. Added to this is the push in education circles to implement "inquiry-based learning," an approach that nurtures students' natural predispositions to issues concerning social justice and human rights.

A new generation of Canadians are being raised that will no longer tolerate the status quo. As a teacher I am conscious that in the coming decades the students now sitting with me in the classroom will have their hands on the levers of power.

Already Canadians are looking for ways to re-engage their treaty partners. With their unique ability to create community, connect with government, and be seen as above the political fray, the Queen of Canada and her representatives (other members of the Royal Family, the governor general and lieutenant governors) are a way to do that. The Crown has the history and specific relationships needed for such tasks. (One example: the Queen recently celebrated the 300th anniversary of the establishment of the Covenant Chain relationship between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and Queen Anne.) Bound in treaty, Her Majesty is considered family by many nations across Turtle Island.

In 2014 the Haudenosanee and Anishinabee Nations hosted a commemoration of the Treaty of Niagara (concluded in 1764 near Fort Niagara). The Honourable David C. Onley, lieutenant governor of Ontario, attended addresses by the assembled nations outside the old fort. Once the speeches were concluded, the lieutenant governor surprised the gathering by attending a feast inside the fort, posing for photographs with various leaders and a replica of the Covenant Chain Wampum. His Honour's gesture of respect and goodwill went further than any words spoken by politicians that weekend. There are similar actions are being done by the Queen's representatives across the land.

This country now finds itself tasked with repairing its most ancient relationships. It is in this era of Reconciliation that the Crown in Canada has the potential of reclaiming one of its foundational roles in our society. Perhaps the most "Canadian" aspect of the Crown in these lands is its ability to act as a conduit between communities, as well as a gatherer of community.

Maintaining the historic and personal relationships between Her Majesty and Indigenous peoples must, once again, become one of the official and publicized duties of the representatives of the Crown in Canada, and should be seen as a key and contemporary responsibility as important as their duty to ensure there is always a prime minister or premier in place.

Government houses and/or offices should become regular gathering places for Canadians and Indigenous peoples to come together in community, observing protocols such as receiving petitions, gift-giving, sacred fires, feasts, and other ceremonies specific to the particular nation gathered at that time.

We have learned from the important work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: the Residential School Program sought to destroy Indigenous languages and replace them with those that included such concepts such as ceding, property ownership, and land surrenders.

The lack of education around such foundational institutions such as the Crown in Canada over the past century has also contributed to the gulf between non-Indigenous Canadians and First Nations. Part of Reconciliation needs to include a re-engagement by Canadians in the mediums that once allowed for communication between our peoples and the gathering of diverse community together in peace and friendship.

Canadians need to re-engage with its fundamental institutions to understand who they are. Plucking a line from his remarkable book Harmony, I quote Charles, the Prince of Wales: "To restore balance to the world, we must find the balance in ourselves."

This article is based on a paper Nathan Tidridge delivered on January 16, 2016, at The Crown in the 21st Century: Deference or Drift? hosted by the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia in Victoria, British Columbia.

Nathan Tidridge

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014
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Nathan Tidridge

Nathan Tidridge was presented the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal by the Prince of Wales in 2012. A high-school history teacher, he won the Premier’s Award for Teaching Excellence (Teacher of the Year, 2008). Nathan is the author of Beyond Mainland, Canada’s Constitutional Monarchy, and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. He lives in Waterdown, Ontario.