Reconciliation and allegiance to the king are not contradictory, believes David Eby

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Reconciliation and allegiance to the king are not contradictory, believes David Eby

Musqueam First Nation Chief Wayne Sparrow stood with David Eby during the Prime Minister's swearing-in.

British Columbia Premier David Eby does not find it contradictory to have sworn allegiance to King Charles III, a tradition enshrined in the Canadian Constitution, when he was sworn into the Musqueam Indigenous community in a gesture of reconciliation.

On Friday, David Eby broke with tradition by holding the swearing-in ceremony at the Musqueam Cultural Center in Vancouver, rather than at Government House, the residence of the Lieutenant Governor of the province in Victoria.

He explains this choice by emphasizing that he lives in Musqueam territory and that he wants this gesture to be symbolic and representative of the link he wishes to build with the First Nations.

The ceremony began with Aboriginal songs, speeches and a blanket ceremony. Before dictating the Pledge of Allegiance to King Charles III to David Eby, Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin also said she was taking this moment to reflect on the legacy of colonial history and what she could do on behalf of the Crown to right past wrongs.

David Eby believes that it is not contradictory to take an oath to the king at the same time as making a gesture of reconciliation. The province, he says, is internationally avant-garde in its attempt to integrate two systems of law: Indigenous law and traditions, and legal systems inherited from colonization, such as the Legislative Assembly, Parliament and the Constitutional Monarchy.

David Eby was sworn in surrounded by members of the Musqueam First Nation and on her lands, a gesture made in an effort to reconcile.

This choice is also welcomed by several members of indigenous communities. This is the case of Bonnie Lépine Antoine, the director of indigenous education at the Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique, who believes that David Eby's intentions are genuine.

Konrad Sioui, former grand chief of the Huron-Wendat Nation of Wendake, also believes this is a step in the right direction for nation-to-nation discussions, even though most indigenous communities in Colombia British do not have treaties and are still engaged in a land claims process.

The relationship that First Nations seek to have with the Crown is fundamentally different from that sought by the most nationalist Quebecers, according to Konrad Sioui.

We are not looking for a separation from the Crown. We want to make sure that the crown fulfills its obligations, that it recognizes fundamental territorial, constitutional, social, [and] economic rights: the rights enshrined in the treaties.

Bonnie Lépine Antoine specifies for his part that some Aboriginal people wish the total abolition of the link with the Crown, but not all. The ideal, according to her, would be to abolish monarchical and colonialist symbols, such as allegiance to the king, but there are several others.

Indigenous principles are not used in the House of Commons or in the Legislative Assemblies, but that is where the colonial aspect is very present. There is nothing in these institutions that represents Indigenous perspectives, traditional ways. The legislative parliamentary system is still very colonial.

While waiting for major changes, Bonnie Lépine Antoine wants Aboriginal people to be invited as often as possible to major events, such as the swearing-in of David Eby as the province's new Premier.

Bonnie Lépine Antoine is Director of Indigenous Education at the Conseil scolaire francophone.

Polls show that more and more people in Canada want the monarchy abolished, says Benoît Pelletier, professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa and former Minister for the Canadian Francophonie of Quebec. The latter, however, does not believe that Canadian society has reached that point.

The monarchy must evolve if it wants to survive and one of the ways to do this is to recognize precisely the presence of Aboriginal people and the emergence of the Aboriginal file, he specifies.

It would be possible, according to him, to make the oath of allegiance to the king optional, but it would be necessary to change the Constitution. The fundamental question that lawyers are currently asking is therefore whether the provinces could unilaterally change the Constitution.

In this case, a province could decide to abolish the oath of allegiance to the king, while another might be more inclined to modify its links with the monarchy.

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