Canada may have rolled out the red carpet for Prince William and Kate Middleton — but that didn’t stop the royal couple from being snubbed.
A prominent indigenous leader has expressed his frustration with the Canadian government by failing to turn up to events featuring the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on Monday and Tuesday.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, was due to join the couple on stage during the 10th anniversary celebrations at the University of British Columbia on Tuesday, but pulled out that morning.
The previous day, Phillip declined to appear at a reconciliation ceremony in Victoria, British Columbia, during which he was meant to present a ring to Prince William that represents the connection between the crown and indigenous peoples.
Phillip told CNN he canceled the appearances to raise awareness of the poverty and social issues faced by indigenous communities across Canada and meant “no disrespect, but it was “a matter of principle.”
“With the deepening poverty of our communities, remembering the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and the ongoing negligence of indigenous child welfare policies across this country, in good conscience, I cannot participate in the Black Rod Ceremony,” he said.
The Black Rod refers to an ornate staff created to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. It features three silver rings, with Prince William adding a fourth ring to the rod earlier in the week.
Kensington Palace declined to comment to CNN.
Chief Phillip raised concerns about the plight of indigenous women who make up 4% of Canada’s female population yet accounted for 16% of all women murdered between 1980 and 2012, according to government statistics.
In response, the government has launched a $53 million (US$41 million) independent inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, to be completed by the end of 2018.