First Nations Meet With Prince Charles, Ask to See Queen Elizabeth II
Tired of waiting for Canada’s government to make good on centuries-old treaties, First Nations are going straight to the source. They are requesting a meeting directly with Queen Elizabeth II, whose government struck the original agreements with the indigenous of northern Turtle Island back during colonial times.
The request came at a meeting with Prince Charles, who along with Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall is on an official tour marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The heir to the throne and his wife visited various cities from May 21–23, including a stop at First Nations University of Canada in Regina, Saskatchewan, before meeting with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo and other First Nations leaders in Toronto. Prince Charles agreed to pass on the request Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
“I would like to thank the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall for spending time with First Nations leaders today as we have an historical relationship with the Imperial Crown pre-dating the existence of Canada,” said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo in a statement. “The meeting focused on the enduring relationship between First Nations and the Crown based on Treaties and noting the upcoming 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 in October 2013, and how renewing the relationship must be the basis of our work today to achieve fundamental change for First Nations in Canada.”
The royal proclamation outlined indigenous rights to occupy the land they lived on and spelled out the relationship between the British throne and the indigenous of what would become Canada.
It would not be aboriginals’ first meeting with the Queen. Atleo met with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip in 2010, according to the AFN. He also met with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in 2009, then with Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, during their visit in 2011. Atleo reaffirmed the Crown–First Nation relationship each time, in writing.
“Canada, as a successor state, has not honored the spirit and intent of treaties, and the chiefs made sure to remind them of previous assurances provided by Queen Elizabeth when she affirmed the treaties in an address on July 5, 1973, to the chiefs in Alberta, stating, ‘You may be assured that my Government of Canada recognizes the importance of full compliance with the spirit of your treaties,’ ” Atleo said in the AFN statement.
Besides being investigated for human rights neglect and food security by two United Nations agencies and the Organization of American States, Canada has been criticized by aboriginals domestically for, among other things, taking its time to resolve land-claims issues and of failing to properly consult Indigenous Peoples on industrial development projects. Appealing to the monarchy is a way to return to the original intent of agreements between Britain and First Nations.
"We were quite impressed with Prince Charles in terms of his understanding of the issues that we face here in this country," Ovide Mercredi, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, told CBC News after the meeting. "He clearly understood the importance of having the treaties upheld by Canada."