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Indigenous politician concerned about singing of royal anthem in legislature

TORONTO — Members of Ontario’s legislature began a new tradition Monday of singing “God Save the Queen” in the chamber, which an Indigenous politician said is a step backward for reconciliation.

The legislature recently adopted a host of procedural rule changes, including singing the royal anthem in addition to the Canadian national anthem on the first Monday of each month. It was sung Monday for the first time since the legislature resumed from the winter break and the new rule went into effect.

Sol Mamakwa, a New Democrat who represents the northern riding of Kiiwetinoong, with a majority Indigenous population, said it was hurtful to hear the anthem.

“As a First Nations person, as a colonized person, it’s a step backwards when we talk about reconciliation,” he said.

Mamakwa, a Kingfisher Lake band member, said he would prefer instead to see some type of acknowledgment to First Nations people in Ontario.

“I see the revival of ‘God Save the Queen’ in this house as a step backwards, a shift from modern reconciliation to a past that celebrated the colonialism, that sought the destruction of cultures, languages and communities,” he told the legislature before question period.

“For me, singing ‘God Save the Queen’ is a celebration of a hurtful and violent colonial past. I cannot be part of it.”

Government house leader Paul Calandra said singing the anthem is a show of respect for the Queen of Canada, who has served for 68 years.

“I believe that Her Majesty…was the first person to show reconciliation to the First Nations,” he said. “Many of our past monarchs didn’t do that. But Her Majesty, over 68 years, has had and continues to have a very special relationship with our First Nations.”

Calandra noted that the NDP didn’t flag it as an issue during debate over the rule changes, though the Liberal and Green members raised it with him in private.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2020.

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press