The accession of King Charles III to the throne is being viewed by some Indigenous people in Canada as an opportunity for the Crown to right historic wrongs.
The Crown has played a role in the negotiation of treaties and the forming of the residential school system, the intergenerational trauma of which is still being felt today. Wolastoqewi Grand Chief, Ron Tremblay, says it is time for the monarch to take responsibility.
Tremblay, his siblings and parents all suffered abuse at the hands of the Crown, as they all attended residential day school.
“What would be a major or a huge statement from King Charles would be to revoke the doctrine of discovery, which is the basis of all of the genocide that occurred here in our homeland. And that would be a first step of us building a new relationship with the Crown,” says Tremblay.
“It (the doctrine of discovery) was quite an old document, but … there’s been many, many times that our our traditional leaders have called upon the Pope and called upon even Queen Elizabeth at the time to revoke the doctrine of discovery. And they have not responded.”
He says he hopes King Charles will be open to conversations with traditional Indigenous leaders and grandmothers across the country and that moving forward, a relationship is developed based in acknowledgment and truth.
“Our people have tried to bring forward the truth, even to those little graves were found. A couple of years ago, our people were talking about this, that there was graveyards within these residential schools. And, you know, and we’ve been saying this for many, many, many centuries, and people would not believe us until they eventually found those graves,” he said.
“What we’re actually trying to bring forward (is) the truth of of what really occurred here in our homeland.”
Tremblay says another important issue he hopes the King is willing to have dialogue around is the Peace and Friendship treaties that Tremblay believes have not been respected by provincial governments, the federal government or the Crown.
The Peace and Friendship treaties were signed by the Crown and First Nations between 1725 and 1779 on unceded ancestral lands lands spanning the present-day provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and parts of Quebec.
“The very first thing that the very first settlers did is to change the names of all the river systems, our sacred places, the lands. It would be a huge step is if we can get our traditional names back of our all our rivers, our tributaries and … sacred landmarks,” says Tremblay.
In 2016, Tremblay was installed as traditional Wolastoqewi Grand Chief. The mandate of the Wolastogey Grand Council is to protect and preserve the Wolastokuk and their unceded homeland.
Tremblay would also like the Crown to make a plan going forward on how to ensure the Crown lands are protected.
“We do need resources, but we can be very, very selective in what we do and not continuing to harm the forest and the water and all the wildlife, the flora and fauna, and that we do have very, very capable people and wise people who can do this planning.”