Royal Visit 2016: B.C. Chiefs Refuse To Attend Reconciliation Event With Will And Kate

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VICTORIA — A ceremony involving the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meant to symbolize the reconciliation of British Columbia's Aboriginal Peoples was rebuffed by a First Nations group.

Grand Chief Stewart Philip, the leader of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said Monday he wouldn't be taking part or supporting the Black Rod Ceremony that was scheduled to be held Monday involving Prince William and Kate.

Prince William added a final ring, symbolizing aboriginal reconciliation, to the Black Rod, a ceremonial staff used on formal occasions when the Queen or lieutenant-governor are present in the legislative assembly.

The current three rings on the staff represent the Crown, Canada and British Columbia, but the provincial government says there have been requests for a fourth ring to signify the link with indigenous peoples, since the staff was created in 2012 to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

prince william bc black rod ceremonyThe Duke of Cambridge places a Ring of Reconciliation upon the Black Rod during a small ceremony in Victoria, B.C. Sept 26, 2016. (Photo: CP)

But Philip said after an intense three-day debate at the group's annual general meeting, the chiefs decided it wouldn't be appropriate for him to participate in a reconciliation ceremony. The union represents more than half of the 203 First Nations in the province.

He said the federal government has made little progress improving the lives of First Nations, while the provincial government pushes ahead with projects opposed by aboriginal groups, such as liquefied natural gas developments and the Site C hydroelectric dam.

"I apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused with our decision. We do not mean any disrespect. It is a matter of principle," Philip said in a news release.

The provincial government couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

"I apologize for any inconvenience we may have caused with our decision. We do not mean any disrespect. It is a matter of principle."

Philip said he couldn't in good conscience attend when he remembers the deepening poverty in First Nation communities, the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and the ongoing negligence of indigenous child welfare policies.

"Certainly our people on the ground that are in the midst of dealing with these tragedies on a daily basis will appreciate us standing up and acknowledging their plight and not blindly participating in yet another grandiose pomp and ceremony that would create the illusion that things in our communities are progressing forward," he said in an interview Monday.

Stephen Point, the first indigenous lieutenant-governor in B.C., was expected to be at the ceremony.

Prince William and Kate toured the First Nations community of Bella Bella on B.C.'s central coast Monday before giving official recognition of the Great Bear Rainforest as part of the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy.

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