A royal cancellation

Students reflect on the U of W’s day of mourning

University of Winnipeg students remain divided about the school’s choice to cancel classes for a day to honour Queen Elizabeth II. (Supplied photo)

Queen Elizabeth II’s recent death and the appointment of King Charles III seems to have had a psychological and symbolic effect on many Canadians. The shift in royal leadership triggered instant legislation and name changes, including to the newly minted Court of King’s Bench in Manitoba.

On Sept. 19, all non-essential provincial government services and offices closed to recognize a federal day of mourning. Elementary, middle and high schools remained open, but post-secondary institutions across the province closed.

In an official statement, the University of Winnipeg’s (U of W) communications department wrote “We will always remember and honour Queen Elizabeth’s life of selfless service. Her unwavering belief in the power of education and the potential it provides to the world’s youth was inspirational. Although it is hard to imagine the world without her, we look to continue her legacy by building a brighter future together.”

The university’s administration seems to view Queen Elizabeth as a figure of hope and inspiration, whose legacy is worth a day to honour.

However, some students hold differing views on both the late monarch and the decision to cancel classes – especially since many of the missed sessions will now have to be made up at a later date.

“I think it was appropriate, but it just sucks we’re going to have to make up for it later, right at the end of the year. I know two, three of my classes have already made a makeup date. Logistically, it’s a bit difficult,” Zenith, a U of W communications student, says.

“I had a quiz that day that had to be rescheduled, and it was really annoying to change my schedule to honour someone like her,” Art, a U of W biology student, says. “

I don’t think it was a good idea, personally. I don’t see how it helped or changed anything. As far as I’m concerned, the Queen was a colonizer. She was a racist ... and the fact that we’re cancelling school for a full day to honour her death,” Art says, trailing off.

Students also expressed concerns about the message honouring the late monarch sends.

“I’m not sure if it’s the best (message),” Rowan, a film student, says. “We don’t really talk about the fact that she did a lot of terrible things, and she’s also so separated from Canada. We’re not England. It’s a whole different country.”

Some students say younger Canadians don’t feel as connected to the royals as past generations. “I don’t know anyone around our age that cares. At all,” Zenith says.

Others, however, reflect on these changing generational values and the colonial structures still present in society. These reflections on colonialism and monarchical legacies are perhaps what the process of mourning the Queen is all about.

Published in Volume 77, Number 04 of The Uniter (September 29, 2022)

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