Day of mourning an opportunity for royal proclamation of reconciliation to be issued by the Crown

September 18, 2022 — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday that this coming Monday would be a federal holiday in honour of the funeral service for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the late Queen of Canada.

Unlike many provinces such as Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Nova Scotia joined the Atlantic provinces in deciding to recognize Monday, September 19, 2022, as a provincial holiday, closing provincial government offices, public schools and regulated child care, leaving the decision to close or remain open up to individual businesses and causing challenges for employees who might have to work while dealing with childcare.

Many Indigenous leaders and advocates have noted that the decision to grieve the passing of the Queen ought to be balanced with a growing understanding of the symbolic harm that such a decision may cause. For a country that has stated its commitment to reconciliation and to working to actualize the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the lack of acknowledgment of the ambivalence that many feel about a national day of mourning seems discordant to many. Some have called for the day to instead serve as a national day of reflection on the consequences of colonization and awakening to the possibility of a new future.

A growing number of us with non-Indigenous origins — uninvited guests residing on the unceded territory of Indigenous peoples, whether we or our ancestors came as settlers, arrivants, or refugees — are increasingly becoming aware of the harms of colonization and the ways it has contributed to genocide, trauma and centuries of injustice toward Indigenous peoples in what is now known as Canada, and other countries across the Commonwealth.

Many are calling for Monday to serve as a turning point, and for our leaders to instead embrace this day as an opportunity to demand accountability and change. In particular, this is an appropriate time for the Doctrine of Discovery to be rejected by the British monarchy.

As noted by Roseanne Archibald, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, the 45th call to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report called for a “Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation to be issued by the Crown” to reaffirm nation-to-nation relations between Indigenous nations and the Crown. This call to action includes renunciation of the Doctrine of Discovery, adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People nationwide, and a commitment to renew or establish proper treaty relationships to ensure Indigenous people are equal partners.

As a body of social workers that has been organizing around the importance of decolonization, we invite our members to recognize that Monday will be a difficult and painful day for the thousands of Indigenous peoples who have been disenfranchised, and whose grief and trauma has been unacknowledged. May this day serve as a time of reflection and inspire us to work toward a decolonized future.

N Siritsky, RSW
NSCSW Professional Practice & Advocacy Consultant