Indigenous reconciliation, climate change are top of mind for Prince Charles as he tours Canada
Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall will tour Ottawa on this second day of their royal visit to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee — a city he recently called "the much-storied capital at the heart of a great nation."
The heir to the throne and the future Queen consort are participating in their first visit to Canada in five years. That lengthy absence was largely due to the COVID-19 health crisis bringing this sort of travel to a halt.
Speaking shortly after his arrival in Newfoundland and Labrador Tuesday, Charles said the tour, like the Platinum Jubilee itself, is "a celebration of people and service to community and country." He said Canadians are an "outward looking and big-hearted" people who have endured the pandemic with grace and dignity.
In a speech at the Confederation Building in St. John's, Charles said the Queen has become "very attached to Canada" as she's been the reigning monarch while much of "Canada's history was written."
Noting her presence at the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the signing of the Constitution Act, Charles said the Queen is proud to witness what Canada has become — a diverse and generous country that's "a force for good in the world."
"Personally, Canada and Canadians have had a very special place in my life since my very first visit here more than a half-century ago," Charles said. "Time and again, I've seen what makes this country truly great — its people and what they stand for."
Meetings with Ukrainian community, Afghan refugees
Charles praised Canada's efforts to support Ukraine as it fights off Russian aggression, to welcome refugees fleeing violence and to tackle climate change through green initiatives.
With those issues top of mind, Charles will today visit the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Ottawa to meet with members of the local Ukrainian-Canadian community, participate in a "sustainable finance engagement" to discuss market solutions to climate change and pay his respects at the National War Memorial. He's also scheduled to meet with a group of women who fled conflict in Afghanistan.
Charles and Camilla will later visit Assumption Elementary School in Ottawa's Vanier neighbourhood to speak about the importance of literacy and meet with parents and students.
Later, the royal couple will attend a performance of the RCMP's famed musical ride and walk through the stables with the force's commissioner, Brenda Lucki. Both Charles and Camilla are noted horse lovers.
Charles also has said he'll use this tour to learn more about what Canada is doing to reconcile with Indigenous peoples after centuries of colonial violence.
Charles said that, before the trip, he spoke with Governor General Mary Simon about the country's reconciliation efforts. Simon — the first Indigenous person to serve in this role — will host the royal couple at Rideau Hall later this evening.
"As we look to our collective future as one people, sharing one planet, we must find new ways to come to terms with the darker and more difficult aspects of the past," Charles said Tuesday. "Acknowledging, reconciling and striving to do better — it is a process that starts with listening."
On tomorrow's leg of the three-day trip, Charles will meet with Indigenous peoples in the Northwest Territories.
This relatively short royal tour has been criticized by some monarchists in Canada. Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge participated in an eight-day tour of the Caribbean earlier this year for Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
Monarchists have said Canada — one of the senior members of the Commonwealth of Nations and a country with a long history with the Crown — deserved more in this special year.
Charles's itinerary for the tour was planned by Canadian Heritage, the federal department that manages all things royal, with input from the Prime Minister's Office.
'We need to see the future king'
Nathan Tidridge, the vice-president of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada and a researcher on Crown-Indigenous relations, said it's important for Charles and other members of the Royal Family to routinely visit Canada to continue the centuries-long relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Crown.
While he's also frustrated with the tour's constrained timeline, Tidridge said he's happy to see that the itinerary includes time for engagement with Indigenous peoples.
"We need to see the future king in this country. The Queen famously said, 'I need to be seen to be believed,' and the same is true here," Tidridge said in an interview with CBC News.
Tidridge said the Crown and its representatives have always been a key part of treaty relationships.
Some proclamations and treaties — like the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which governed early colonial expansion policies, and the Treaty of Niagara from 1764, which defined how the English would interact with First Nations — were signed by the Crown well before there was a "Canada" or a federal government in Ottawa.
Tidridge said the relationship with Indigenous peoples deteriorated once the country adopted its system of responsible government and elected officials passed discriminatory laws like the Indian Act, which helped usher in the establishment of the residential school system.
For that reason, Tidridge said, many First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples see the nation-to-nation relationship as a bond with the Crown and not the federal government.
Tidridge cited past comments by former Assembly of First Nations national chief Perry Bellegarde, who once said it's the role of the sitting government to "operationalize the treaty obligations held by the Crown" while the Queen and her successors "are the caretakers and witnesses to this immutable relationship."
"By dumping the monarchy, by abolishing the Crown, you'd actually be furthering the colonial project because then that treaty relationship would now be fully in the hands of a settler government that thinks in four-year election cycles. Whereas the Crown, it's here forever," Tidridge said.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J.P. Tasker is a senior writer in the CBC's parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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