Prince Charles said it is time to find new ways to ‘come to terms with the darker and more difficult aspects of Canada’s past’ as he addressed reconciliation in his first speech on the royal tour.
Charles made the remarks during the official welcome ceremony at the Confederation Building in St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – the first stop on his and Camilla’s whirlwind three-day tour marking the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Prince Charles was urged to apologise for the treatment of indigenous communities in Canada on behalf of the monarchy as he and Camilla touched down on Tuesday.
Cassidy Caron, National Council President of the Metis people, said she intended to raise the issue personally with the heir to the throne when they meet on Wednesday.
Mary Teegee, executive director of child and family services at Carrier Sekani Family Services in the province of British Columbia, said: ‘They also have to understand that they are not the leaders in our nation,’ adding that recognition of the harms of colonisation are needed rather than just a ‘trite’ apology.
The pressure comes after two recent royal visits to the Caribbean – by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Earl and Countess of Wessex – attracted criticism for promoting ‘colonialism’ and calls for reparations over Britain’s role in the historic slave trade.
Nevertheless, Charles and Camilla received a very warm welcome from cheering crowds, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and senior leaders from indigenous groups.
Prince Charles referred directly to the process of reconciliation in Canada in the first speech of his royal tour, saying it is time to find new ways to ‘come to terms with the darker and more difficult aspects of the past’
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall arrive in St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, for their three-day trip to Canada to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee
The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall were greeted warmly by well-wishers as they arrived in St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador on their first day of their Royal Tour of Canada
The couple were welcomed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, pictured, as they arrived in the country for the three-day visit
Charles and Camilla meet representatives of the local communities, businesses and organisations at Government House on day one of the Platinum Jubilee Royal Tour
Newfoundland and Labrador, during his three-day trip to Canada with the Duchess of Cornwall to mark the Platinum Jubilee
Pictured: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall visit Quidi Vidi on May 17, 2022
Delivering a speech in both English and French, Charles referred directly to the process of reconciliation in Canada, talking about ‘our collective need’ to come to terms with the ‘darker and more difficult aspects of the past’.
He said: ‘However, 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: acknowledging, reconciling and striving to do better. It is a process that starts with listening.’
He continued: ‘I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to discuss with the Governor General the vital process of reconciliation in this country – not a one-off act, of course, but an ongoing commitment to healing, respect and understanding.
‘I know that our visit here this week comes at an important moment – with indigenous and non-indigenous peoples across Canada committing to reflect honestly and openly on the past and to forge a new relationship for the future…’
He added that he and his wife ‘look forward to listening to you and learning about the future you are working to build. ‘
‘As so often in the history of this country and her people, Canadians have embarked on a journey that demands commitment and courage. My wife and I could hardly be more privileged to travel part of this journey with you and we are deeply grateful for your warm welcome, which we will carry with us throughout this entire tour.’
Pictured: Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrive in Ottawa as part of a three-day Canadian tour
Pictured: Britain’s Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall arrive as part of a three-day Canadian tour, in Ottawa
Schoolchildren reached out to hug Prince Charles as he arrived in St John’s at the start of the whirlwind three-day visit
Prince Charles inspects the Guards of Honour ahead of the welcoming ceremony in St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
The Duchess of Cornwall was handed a posy of flowers as she and Charles arrived in Canada for their three-day visit
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were joined at the ceremony by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
The UK enjoys a warm relationship with Canada, where the Queen is head of state, and whose Platinum Jubilee Charles and Camilla’s three-day visit is designed to celebrate.
But the country has been coming to terms with the grim discovery last year of hundreds of human remains in unmarked graves at former church-run schools, institutions to which indigenous children were forcibly relocated for generations.
From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 indigenous children were forced to attend state-funded Christian boarding schools in an effort to assimilate them into Canadian society.
Thousands of children died of disease and other causes, with many never returned to their families.
The Canadian government has acknowledged that physical and sexual abuse was rampant in the schools, with students beaten for speaking their native languages.
Despite the tensions, flag-waving schoolchildren and well-wishers still turned out to greet the royal couple as they began their whirlwind schedule of engagements with a welcoming ceremony in the city of St John’s
The Prince of Wales is greeted as he and Camilla arrive in Canada ahead of Royal Tour to mark Queen’s Platinum Jubilee
The Prince of Wales as he leaves the plane after touching down in Canada for their three-day trip to Canada to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are saluted as they leave the plane in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall are warmly greeted as they arrive in St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, for their three-day trip to Canada
The Duchess of Cornwall is saluted as she arrives with the Prince of Wales for their three-day trip to Canada
Notably Charles, 73, and Camilla, 74, will begin their tour by acknowledging the treatment of the schools’ victims.
They will take part in a ‘solemn moment of reflection and prayer’ in the Heart Garden in St John’s, Newfoundland, dedicated to the thousands who died or were abused in the school system.
Chris Fitzgerald, deputy private secretary to the prince for foreign, commonwealth and development affairs, said of their decision to begin the trip with an acknowledgement of the issue: ‘Heart Gardens are in memory of all indigenous children who were lost to the residential school system, in recognition of those who survived, and the families of both.’
He added: ‘Throughout the tour, Their Royal Highnesses will take the opportunity to continue to engage with indigenous communities.
‘Over five decades, HRH continues to learn from Indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world.
‘He recognises their deep ties to the land and water and the critical traditional knowledge they hold to restore harmony between people and Nature.’
The couple appeared in good spirits as they chatted with well-wishers in St. John’s to begin a three-day Canadian tour
Prince Charles and Camilla leave their plane upon touching down in St. John’s to begin a three-day Canadian tour
Prince Charles and Camilla as they arrive ahead of their three-day tour of Canada to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee
Prince Charles and Camilla descending the stairs of their plane upon arrival in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada
But Ms Caron, who represents the Metis, a distinct indigenous people, originally the offspring of Indian women and European fur traders, believes the royal family need to go further.
She told CBC News: ‘There’s so much healing that is needed. We need basic human necessities in our communities and it stems from colonisation.
‘It stems from assimilation and some financial reparations are absolutely helpful in helping us move forward.’
She said she will raise the issue of the Queen apologising for the abuse of indigenous people in Canada’s residential schools suffered and paying reparations when she meets with the prince and duchess at a reception in Ottawa.
Charles and Camilla flew in the Canadian Government’s official Royal Canadian Air Force plane which has been renamed ‘Royals 01’ especially for the voyage. It is normally called CanForce1 when the country’s Prime Minster is on board.
Prince Charles stood to attention during an official welcome to Canada, hosted in the city of St John’s
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall shared a quiet word as they joined Governor General of Canada Mary Simon at the event
Schoolchildren waving the Canadian flags turned out to greet Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall on their arrival
Immediately after their arrival they travelled to St John’s by convoy for an official welcome ceremony at the Confederation Building attended by Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and other dignitaries as well as senior representatives of the main Indigenous communities.
Representatives of the local Beothuk Nation holding placards which read ‘We Live On’ stood behind the line-up but also greeted the royal visitors enthusiastically.
Charles clasped the hands of several of the indigenous leaders representing the Innu Nation, the NunatuKavut Community Council, Saqamaw and Chief of the Miawpokek First Nation and Chief of the Qalipu First Nation.
Mr Trudeau greeted the heir to the throne like an old friend, also clasping the prince’s hands.
Charles then took the Royal Salute as the national anthem played before inspecting the Guard of Honour.
As they walked up the steps to the building Charles and Camilla split to greet well-wishers on either side, many of whom were children.
Inside the prince and duchess enjoyed cultural performances by local musicians and singers, as well as speeches by dignitaries including Mr Trudeau.
Before they departed couple signed a ‘Golden Book’ and the Provincial Guest Book before leaving, with the stunning landscape in front of them including The Narrows – the only passage from the Atlantic Ocean to St. John’s Harbour – andCabot Tower, built in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
As they walked to their car they were mobbed by well-wishers, Charles ‘high-giving’ a group of local schoolgirls who had waited to two hours to see him.
Their 72-hour visit which will see them travel a staggering 9,000 miles door-to-door.
The visit will also see the couple travel to Ottawa and Yellowknife, the capital city of the Northwest Territories.