Manitoulin citizens reflect on the late Queen and the future of the monarchy in Canada

MANITOULIN—Everyone seemed to have the utmost respect for Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away on September 8. From local, provincial and federal politicians to First Nations leaders and the general public, the words ‘class, respect and commitment to service’ come to the forefront when describing her.

On behalf of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, Member of Parliament (MP) Carol Hughes extended deepest condolences to the Royal Family, including King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla, the people of the United Kingdom, all of the Commonwealth countries and those around the world who were touched by her warmth, dedication and resilience.

“Today, with a heavy heart, we learned of the passing of Canada’s longest service sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,” MP Hughes stated. “Her reign lasted for over 70 years, having just celebrated her Platinum Jubilee. Her reign as Canada’s Head of State will always be a vital part of our history. Today, we mourn a monumental life of a woman who was a symbol of grace and consistency in an ever-changing world.”

Algoma-Manitoulin Member of Provincial Parliament Michael Mantha said, “right now is the time to reflect on the Queen’s 70 years of excellent public service. We also need to keep in mind the Queen was a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Her family needs time and space to grieve.”

He was surprised to hear the news, but with the Queen having had recent health issues, “we knew the day was coming. I was surprised to hear how quickly she had declined. She has been strong for many years and strong for the people and her service,” he said.

Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare stated, “It was a shock to hear of the Queen’s passing. The news had shown her walking around a couple of days ago. For someone to be a leader for that long is quite a milestone and she deserves all the accolades she receives. She will be missed.”

The focus now will be on how the new King Charles III will assume leadership of the monarchy, Chief Hare added. He hopes King Charles III will continue to move the relationship the monarchy has had with First Nations people forward. “The Queen made a statement relating to the stabbings in Saskatchewan, which demonstrates she was watching what is happening here in Canada, and all around the world. I hope the new monarch doesn’t forget us either,” he said.

Al MacNevin, mayor of the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands (NEMI) told The Expositor Thursday, “I had seen on social media about doctors being concerned about the Queen being ill yesterday (last Wednesday, September 7). I didn’t know she had passed away until late this afternoon. I was surprised when I heard the news but I wasn’t shocked. The Queen was 96 and had been ill.”

“Having served 70 years as Queen is amazing,” said Mayor MacNevin. “She represented the monarchy, her family and country with class and dignity, and earned the respect of everyone around the world with the way she carried out her role with the monarchy.”

He remembered when Queen Elizabeth II visited Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, where his wife Charlene was then a nurse, in the early 1970s. “Everyone was so excited she was going to visit,” Mayor MacNevin said. “I remember they were going to wear nursing caps with “Hi Queen” on them. Charlene and other staff on the floor at the hospital got to meet the Queen.”

“She was a class act, the way she carried out her responsibilities and made sure the rest of her family behaved,” he said and added that now Prince Charles has become King Charles III, it will be interesting to see what happens. “Charles isn’t a spring chicken either,” he noted.

Rachel Manitowabi, Ogimaa-kwe for Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory told the Expositor, “You know, of course, Queen Elizabeth’s run was very long but she was getting very elderly. I was shocked when I received the notification she had passed.”

“I was listening to a commentary on the radio and they were saying Queen Elizabeth II had been the leader of the monarchy from the time of the Truman presidency in the United States,” Ogimaa-kwe Manitowabi continued. “Imagine all the things she saw during her reign, and the first address she made to the Commonwealth. She was so young and had been put in the position of Queen so quickly with the passing of her father.”

Ogimaa Kwe Manitowabi said Indigenous First Nations people have had a storied relationship with the monarchy over the years. “Our Governor General said she had met the Queen and that the Queen was aware and alert about Indigenous people and the issues we face, and she (Governor General) felt the compassion from the Queen.”

“I have respect for her long reign, and the way she carried herself and remained neutral,” added Ogimaa-kwe Manitowabi. “I have a huge respect for her that she reigned as Queen that long and the way she presented herself.”

She said Charles has been preparing all his life for this. “Right now, my thoughts are with the people of the United Kingdom as they mourn and as the transition is made. I have to acknowledge the Queen’s very long reign, and now she has been reunited with her husband.”

Mary Buie, who is originally from Crawley, England said, “I have always admired the Queen and enjoyed following the Royal family, but especially the Queen. She was Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, and a lot of leaders from around the world respected her.”

“Elizabeth became the Queen at a very early age,” said Ms. Buie. “That was her duty and life, to serve the country and the Commonwealth. A lot of people around the world admired her and she never failed to always be gracious and beautiful. I always enjoyed what she wore. She always dressed elegantly, in bright colours, with a hat and carrying a handbag. A lot of the time she would wear pearls and she often wore a broach.”

Ms. Buie remembers the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, which took place in 1953. “We did not have television at home,” she said. Along with her mother and brother Mike (Coomes), she bicycled to a relative’s home to watch the coronation on a small black and white television.

“I was almost nine years old, and I remember the golden coach procession that transported her from Buckingham Palace to Westminster,” said Ms. Buie. “I had a replica of one of the coaches she was in.”

In 1955, Ms. Buie lived in Crawley, which was about 25 miles from London. “It would take 40 minutes by train to get to London,” Ms. Buie continued. “We would often go by train to Victoria and would walk past Buckingham Palace. We used to stand outside to see what was going on, with the changing of the guards.”

Crawley is next to Gatwick Airport, which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1955, she said. “As school children we lined the route and as the cars passed, I think I saw her.”

Ms. Buie was in Calgary last week, attending an international horse jumping competition at Spruce Meadows, Alberta. “They did a tribute in memory of the Queen, who had been there in 1976 to take part in the horse show and to dedicate horse statues,” Ms. Buie said. “Horses had always been a big part of the Queen’s life. It was really nice that they had this tribute. The Canadian flag was flown at half mast. Mike (Coomes, her brother) and Suzie were with me. Mike wore a black band and Suzie wore a black ribbon.

Ms. Buie and daughter Jen had gone to the safari at Kenya, at the Treetops Resort where the Queen and Prince Phillip had been staying when she heard that her father had died and she would become Queen. “I really thought Queen Elizabeth II would live to be 100,” added Ms. Buie. “It is nice that she passed away at her favourite place, Balmoral in Scotland.”

Aundeck Omni Kaning Chief Patsy Corbiere said that she felt compassion for the Royal Family at this time of their mourning. She recalled Queen Elizabeth II as a role model for many and a positive force in the world. She noted that the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Crown has been a challenging one over the years and that many Indigenous people have a poor understanding of the connections between “Queen” and “Crown.”

“That is especially true of a lot of the older folks,” she said. “If they were unhappy with something that was going on or a decision being made they would make an appeal to the Queen.” Although the Queen, or now King, takes no role in the political realm in the relationship between the Crown and First Nations, that concept still resonates within many Indigenous peoples.

In the Royal Proclamation of 1763 George III forbade settlers from claiming land in Indigenous territories and which established in British law that title to all lands were held by the Indigenous inhabitants unless first bought by the Crown and then sold on. The Royal Proclamation is the foundation of all treaties from 1763 onwards.

Arthur Pummell, who was born in London, England but now lives in Gore Bay has always been a fan of the Queen and the Royal Family. “The Queen is going to be missed for sure,” he said.

Mr. Pummell can remember being 10 years old in 1953, and the Queen’s coronation. “There were coronation street parties all through London and I always thought it was such a fantastic thing, wonderful,” he said.

“The Commonwealth will definitely miss the Queen,” he continued. “She had to reign through a lot of difficult times, but she always came out very well. I still support the Royal Family and wish I was there for the Queen’s funeral. I hope they put on a fantastic service. She certainly deserves it. She was a touch of class.”

Mr. Pummell has lowered the flags in front of his home in Gore Bay.

Erwin Thompson, an Evansville resident, told The Expositor he can remember listening to the Queen’s coronation in 1953. “I was six years of age,” he said. “We were living in Levack and I remember we had a day off from school. My mother was doing the laundry and the sewer backed up.”

Mr. Thompson said all the students at his elementary school received a bronze medallion from the school commemorating the event. “I was pretty excited about the event and we listened to the coronation on the radio as we didn’t have a television at that time,” he said.

“Being originally from the Maritimes, we were always very supportive of the monarchy,” said Mr. Thompson. He remembers having a souvenir booklet of the coronation that had a white cover. Inside the booklet was a route of the procession and photographs of the event.

“I phoned my mom yesterday,” Mr. Thompson said last Friday. “She is two years older than the Queen was.”

He’s not sure how he feels about Prince Charles becoming King. “I just hope he is as good as his mother was,” said Mr. Thompson.

Canada flags at the Kagawong Cenotaph and in front of the Old Mill Museum and Billings Township municipal office building were at half mast beginning last Thursday. A black ribbon was draped over a photograph of the Queen inside the museum as well.

“Like all Canadians, I was profoundly sad to learn of the passing of the Queen,” said Rick Nelson, curator of the Old Mill Heritage Museum. “I am part of that baby boomer generation who grew up with no other monarch. It’s the end of an era.”

When he learned that the Queen had passed away, he immediately went out of the museum and lowered all of the municipal flags in the downtown core as a sign of respect. Two portraits of the Queen were erected, one for the municipal office and one inside the museum.

“As a student of history, I am now a living part of it,” Mr. Nelson said.