Ottawans from former British colonies share their hopes for King Charles

·2 min read
King Charles III greets members of the public in London Saturday after formally being proclaimed monarch.  ( James Manning/PA via AP - image credit)
King Charles III greets members of the public in London Saturday after formally being proclaimed monarch. ( James Manning/PA via AP - image credit)

Several Ottawa community groups representing diasporas of former British colonies are expressing their hopes about the future direction of the monarchy under King Charles III.

In a ceremony at Rideau Hall on Saturday, Gov. Gen. Mary Simon met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet to proclaim Charles as Canada's new monarch.

Although Charles automatically became King of Canada upon the death last week of Queen Elizabeth II, the proclamation of accession issued by Simon made it official.

Several Ottawans who trace their roots to former British colonies told CBC about the complex emotions they felt after hearing of the Queen's death — and about their desire for a renewed relationship with the crown under her successor.

Submitted by Parmod Chhabra
Submitted by Parmod Chhabra

Born in India in 1960, Parmod Chhabra described growing up hearing stories of atrocities committed against his family during Britain's nearly century-long rule of the country from 1858 to 1947.

"We used to hear it from our mother, father and both sets of grandparents, who had to suffer because of those policies," said Chhabra, president of Ottawa's India-Canada Association. "As a child, I had very bitter memories of that."

Chhabra's parents and grandparents were displaced by the violence and chaos of the 1947 partition of British India into two separate countries, India and Pakistan. During the hasty retreat that marked the end of Britain's rule over India, several of Chhabra's family members ended up in a refugee camp.

"After 75 years of independence, we still have very raw feelings about what happened at that time," he said.

But since moving to Canada 35 years ago, Chhabra said his perspective on the Queen and the institution she represents has changed.

He now carries an uncomfortable internal conflict between his newfound respect for the late monarch and the stories of his youth.

Hopes for the future

Representatives of the African Canadian Association of Ottawa draw a similar distinction between remembering the Queen and challenging the monarchy.

"We don't mourn — we celebrate, because she's lived a long, useful life," said Godlove Ngwafusi, the association's spokesperson. "But that doesn't negate the fact that there are major issues that lie just underneath the rug."

John Adeyefa, the association's president, said he'd be looking to King Charles III for further action to modernize the crown.

Submitted by John Adeyefa
Submitted by John Adeyefa

He hopes Charles will soon visit the old colonies, apologize for the colonial era and pay reparations for the "ills and the evils of slavery as well as the colonization of the people of Africa."

Until then, he intends to reflect on the Queen's legacy.

"Her reign was impactful. She served selflessly," he said. "We pray that her soul rest in peace."