Premier Doug Ford and I don’t agree on much but he got it right by declaring an optional moment of silence as Queen Elizabeth II is laid to rest Monday. The list of things Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and I don’t agree on just grew by one when he pronounced a national holiday (federal employee gift).
To be clear, it’s not a hill I’m willing to die on either way, I can’t imagine caring less.
Queen Elizabeth II, as a person, seemed alright for a member of a royal family. She rightly considered Donald Trump an oaf, so there’s evidence of good taste. My qualms are with the "monarchy" concept at its root with a deeply intertwined disdain for any royalty, pomp and circumstance. Not crystal clear why, aside from some clearly abysmal history and centuries of imperialism to hoard global blood-stained gold and resources.
I can understand why some people get a thrill out of intermittent proximity to the crown jewels of the family. And the figurehead of Commonwealth nations has a lot of supporters, literally hundreds of millions of people, so who am I to be overly critical at a time like this?
I would certainly stop, remove my hat and reflect on her as a victim of birth Monday at 1 p.m. But that’s the last of it. There will be nothing but derision for King Charles III and it is fair game to start on Wednesday, Sept. 21 (only because I’m busy Tuesday). There will be no holds barred with this so-called Head of State, it’s time to cut a constitutional cord so to speak. All we need is all the provinces and territories to agree and we can get over this trifling situation – unless Poilievre runs with the notion as part of his populist Pied Piper routine, then I’m willing to give the royalty one more chance.
On a practical note, Ford is right to keep Ontario workers at their jobs – they are already dealing with bleak workforce realities in both our schools and hospitals. Many parents and patients are already on pins and needles, pun intended, as Covid uncertainties persist in classrooms while inflation gobbles away at under-funded budget envelopes – strained by the higher cost of private entities. Oops. Went and got a little political there. I should balance that with a slap at the Grits for failing on both fronts themselves and the New Democrats for being so darn incompetent at mounting a credible opposition. I think they are still blaming those who didn’t vote.
It’s understandable that Indigenous people here and across the oceans blue have a muted reaction when a British monarch passes and another hops up onto the throne. They’ve had some thorny crowns to deal with over a millennium or two and it cuts deep into generational lines.
Worth noting, though, that those gathered in Nipissing First Nation for the 1850 Treaty Waawiindamaagewin Conference Sept. 7-9 stopped for a moment of silence on the second day when news of the Queen’s passing was known.
Chief among the agenda items was how the Crown didn’t live up to or fought against the implementation of many parts of the treaty, including the performative annuity of $4 for each member of the Indigenous nations involved – including Dokis, Nipissing, and many others between here, Manitoulin and Thunder Bay. Waawiindamaagewin, by the way, is Anishnaabemowan for “mutual promises.” They celebrated the 172nd anniversary of signing the treaty Friday. Ontario had initially taken steps to appeal a court ruling that says the annuity should have been increased as the riches of resources were taken from the land. Tripartite negotiations, however, began this spring between Canada, Ontario, and the Robinson Huron Treaty Litigation Fund to find a way to reconcile outside of the court. It would be nice if the lawyers were not the only ones getting rich on the issue that’s been disputed for almost the entire 172 years.
Just so you know, Teme-Augama Anishnabai and Algonquin were skipped over by the Crown when it came to making a treaty agreement and that’s still unresolved. Maybe someday.
By the way, if you want to hear a few Indigenous people talk about the things that matter to them, I’ve conducted several podcast interviews recently worth a look. Larry McLeod Shabogesic is a land-based educator and elder who assists in the teaching of some Nipissing University students. He was part of a panel on the topic with Dr. Gyllian Phillips at the Broken Forest conference on Aug. 23, see the video HERE.
Larry and I first met at Canadore College in 1987 when I was working for the president’s office and then again in 1988 while in student services producing newsletters, including one for the Indigenous student services department. He taught construction by having students build homes, hands-on learning on the land was happening then too.
On Aug. 31, I posted an interview with Norm Dokis of Dokis First Nation and while it starts off with the signing of the 1850 Treaty, it’s actually about him recovering from severe forearm/wrist injuries by employing wood carving as both physical and emotional therapy. Norm and I also met at Canadore 35 years ago, he was studying broadcast journalism while I was in the print program and we’ve crossed paths every few years.
On Aug. 18, Esther Pennell, a local singer-songwriter with banjo love, shared how she is working on a series of children’s books about grieving. If you check, there are several videos on the YouTube channel with her as she prepared to release her latest CD with Peter Cliche.
Also posted is one with Frank Couchie, which went up during the Nipissing Warriors hockey group’s celebration in August. He played with the iconic Indigenous team from 1966 to 1979, but that’s not all we discussed. A good part of the interview was about all the challenges and changes in his community, mostly for the better, noting their determined spirit to live and prosper despite oppressive obstacles.
They might not be as sexy as treaty court battles or the fall and ascension of royalty, yet the interviews are just as important because when it comes down to it … nothing moves forward unless we get to know each other.
Need more diversity? Check out the free World Culture FusionFest that begins Saturday at Good2Go from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
P.S. Next week, I’ll start a series of columns focusing on the Oct. 24 municipal election, in addition to as many long-form video interviews with candidates as I can arrange. BayToday readers who made it to the end of this missive can get a sneak peek of the first interview conducted with North Bay mayoral candidate Johanne Brousseau, which won’t be shared on social media until Saturday.
Dave Dale is a veteran journalist and columnist who has covered the North Bay area for more than 30 years. Reader responses meant as Letters to the Editor can be sent to email@example.com. To contact the writer directly, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his website www.smalltowntimes.ca