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Indigenous spiritual adviser and poet comments on Monarchy's legacy ahead of tribute to Queen

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As an Algonquin spiritual adviser, Albert Dumont is familiar with thinking deeply about what a person’s passing means — but as he prepares to deliver a tribute to Queen Elizabeth at the memorial in Ottawa on Monday, he is reflecting on more complicated emotions than usual.

“It's been difficult because the history has not been pretty,” he told CTV National News.

On one hand, Queen Elizabeth II is a human being, and he feels the pain of those who are mourning her loss, he said.

And yet, in that pain, the bigger picture of the Monarchy’s deadly reach cannot be forgotten.

“It made me reflect on past history with the Monarchy,” he said. “Just to give you an example, John A Macdonald — I call him John A “kill the Indian in the child” Macdonald — was knighted by the monarchy, and I'll never be able to understand that.”

Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, authorized the creation of residential schools with the express intention of suppressing Indigenous culture, language and identity. Thousands of children suffered horrific physical and sexual abuse at these schools, and thousands more never made it out alive.

“Anybody that has anything to do with the death of thousands of children, to me, is more like a monster than anything else,” Dumont said.

Since Queen Elizabeth II’s death 10 days ago, many Indigenous people in Canada, and others affected by the Monarchy’s legacy of colonization, have been sorting through these complex feelings.

On Monday, Dumont will be putting some of them into words.

A national commemorative service in honour of Queen Elizabeth II will take place at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa starting at 1 p.m. after a memorial parade through the downtown area.

During the ceremony, numerous speakers, musicians and performers will take the stage to honour and remember the late monarch.

Dumont, who is also Ottawa’s English Poet Laureate, is one of those set to deliver a tribute, a task he has been thinking about intently.

“The death of a loved one is hard to take for any family, right? Somebody that's dearly loved and all of a sudden, they're no longer there. So I have a heart for people when they lose somebody special,” he said. “So my tribute speaks about that loss.”

He said that his tribute will acknowledge that, because of the Queen’s position, her death has impacts across a wider group of people than just her direct family, with memorial services spanning entire countries.

“I speak of that in the tribute to bring comfort to them,” he said, referring to those who are affected by the Queen’s death. "Because that's just the work that I'm connected with as a spiritual adviser.

“But I also felt I needed to speak about the horrors of the past monarchies, the past monarchs and the brutality that was involved. I tried to do it in an eloquent way and in a way that's going to be not really frowned upon by people who love the Queen, because nobody's perfect.”

The death of a powerful figure like the Queen provokes mixed reactions, even in Dumont himself — he noted that when it came to the Queen’s actual personality, “it was hard not to like her, because she was sweet.

“She was cute. You know, she was gentle and kind. She really connected with the grassroots people,” Dumont said.

He felt that she seemed equally at peace around the average person as around dignitaries and prime ministers.

“One of my sisters was a big, big admirer of the Queen,” he added. “Whenever the Queen came to Canada and was sitting around Ottawa, my sister took time to go and see her, just to be in the crowd. She’d get there early to be in the front line to maybe get to say hello to the Queen.”

Dumont himself has never attempted to meet the Queen on one of her visits.

When he heard that she had died earlier this month, he immediately began reflecting on how to write his tribute.

“I went to the forest, I went to the lake, I went picking wild blackberries even, because to me, that's the time with deep thinking for me,” he said. “And some good things came and I think whenever you read the tribute or hear the tribute, I think you're going to like it. I know I do. And I'm pretty sure Canadians who love the Queen will like it too.”

Death is not an end to him, he explained, describing how he believes the contradictions of the Queen’s legacy may now find resolution.

“As a spiritual adviser, I know that nobody escapes justice,” he said. “The wrongs of the past will catch up to you in the spiritual place. I dedicate a small paragraph to that in in my tribute, and my hope that the Queen will sit at a council fire and renounce the horrors of the past monarchs in the spiritual realm.

“The physical heart stops beating here, but there's another heart that starts beating in the spiritual place that is eternal.”

In terms of the Monarchy facing the crimes of the past in the present day, he is not sure if an apology to Indigenous people in Canada will ever come from King Charles III, but he’s hopeful for it.

"It should (be) normal and natural for anyone that's hurt somebody else to apologize someday, to be able to say, I'm so sorry that I hurt you,” he said.

He noted that Indigenous people had to call for an apology from the Catholic Church for decades, including meeting with former popes, before Pope Francis finally came over to Canada this summer to deliver an apology on Canadian soil. 

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