Grand Chief Stewart Phillip turns down invitation to participate in Black Rod Ceremony with Prince William

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      One of B.C.'s most influential First Nations leaders will not be at a ceremony with Prince William to protest the way Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Christy Clark are dealing with indigenous issues.

      As part of the Royal Tour, Lieut.-Gov. Judith Guichon will host the Black Rod Ceremony, in which First Nations representatives will hand over a ring of reconciliation to the man who's second in line for the British throne. At that point, Prince William will place the ring on a black rod, which is a ceremonial staff that Guichon uses when she visits the legislative assembly.

      The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs decided at a convention last week to decline an invitation to participate in the event, which takes place today (September 26).

      "A clear majority of chiefs felt, in the face of the Trudeau government’s hesitancy to follow through on their federal election commitments and the government of B.C.'s intransigence on following through with the four principles arising from the historic Supreme Court of Canada’s Tsilhqot'in decision, the Chiefs-in-Assembly felt it would not be appropriate for me to participate in a 'reconciliation' ceremony at this time," UBCIC president Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said in a news release.

      He added that he could not, in good conscience, participate in the event given 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 the country".

      "I apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused with our decision," Phillip stated. "We do not mean any disrespect."

      The UBCIC vice president, Chief Bob Chamberlin, cited the B.C. government's decision to fast-track the Site C dam in northeastern B.C. and a legal dispute over the Trudeau government's implementation of Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights.

      The UBCIC's secretary treasurer, Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, maintained that the federal and provincial governments have demonstrated that they don't believe that title and treaty rights exist unless they're recognized in court or in a treaty.

      "There is no true recognition of indigenous title, rights and the honouring of treaty rights when it comes to Site C, Enbridge, Kinder Morgan or Lelu Island," she said.

      The Royal tour includes stops in indigenous communities on B.C.'s central cost, on Haida Gwaii, and in the Yukon.

      It comes when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has come under criticism for his support for the $8.8-billion Site C dam in northeastern B.C. over the objections of many First Nations leaders.