Prince Charles expresses reconciliation at the beginning of the Canadian tour


ST. JOHN’S, NL — Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, arrived in St. John’s, NL, on Tuesday to begin a three-day tour of Canada that will primarily focus on reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

ST. JOHN’S, NL — Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, arrived in St. John’s, NL, on Tuesday to begin a three-day tour of Canada that will primarily focus on reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

Under partly cloudy skies, the couple landed aboard a Canadian government plane at St. John’s International Airport. They then drove in a motorcade to a welcoming ceremony at the provincial legislature with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor General Mary Simon.

The couple were greeted by an honor guard and various dignitaries before shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries with the crowd. On the steps leading to Parliament, about 100 school children waved small Canadian and provincial flags.

6th grade student Anna Jeans said she was excited about the possibility that she could get a high-five from Charles or Camilla. “I’m very excited,” she said, rocking on her tiptoes. “It’s a great opportunity for me.”

Nearby, Tara Kelly – who wears a homemade fascinator with a high plume of green feathers – said she’s been a long-time fan of the royal family. “It’s a fantasy,” she said.

In the purple-lit foyer of the Confederacy building, the Prince and Duchess watched as Innu Elder Elizabeth Penashue delivered a blessing and Inuk soprano Deantha Edmunds sang.

The event began with a land recognition in honor of the province’s five indigenous peoples, as well as the Beothuk, who were among the first inhabitants of Newfoundland, dating back 9,000 years.

Simon welcomed Charles and Camilla to Canada in Inuktitut. She asked Charles and Camilla to listen to the indigenous groups they will meet in Canada and hear their stories.

“I encourage you to learn the truth of our story — the good and the bad,” she said. “In this way we promote healing, understanding and respect. And in this way we also promote reconciliation.”

The Prince began his speech by noting that the land that became Canada has been tended by indigenous peoples – First Nations, Métis and Inuit – for thousands of years.

“We must find new ways to confront the darker and more difficult aspects of the past, to acknowledge, to reconcile and to strive to do better,” he said. “It’s a process that starts with listening.”

The prince said he spoke to the governor-general about the “vital process” of reconciliation.

“[It’s]of course not a one-off act, but an ongoing commitment to healing, respect, and understanding,” he said. “I know that our visit this week comes at an important time for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples across Canada to make a commitment to reflect honestly and openly on the past.”

Charles and Camilla then proceeded to Government House, the official residence of Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote, the Queen’s Representative to the Province.

Outside the residence, they will participate in a reconciliation prayer with Indigenous leaders at the Heart Garden, built to honor Indigenous children who attended the province’s boarding schools.

Earlier in the day, Trudeau said the reconciliation will be part of the discussions Charles and Camilla will have during their visit. But the Prime Minister avoided answering when asked if he thought the Queen should apologize for the hostels legacy.

“Reconciliation has been a fundamental priority for this administration since our election and there are many, many things that we all need to work on together,” he said. “But we know it’s not just about the government and the indigenous people. It’s about everyone doing their part and that’s certainly a reflection everyone will have.”

Métis National Council President Cassidy Caron said she intends to make a request for apologies to the Prince and Duchess at a reception Wednesday at Ottawa’s Rideau Hall.

Caron said boarding school survivors had told her an apology from the Queen was important as she is Canada’s head of state and leader of the Anglican Church. “Royals have a moral responsibility to participate, contribute and advance reconciliation,” Caron said in Ottawa on Monday.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis apologized for the Catholic Church’s role in hostels when indigenous leaders and hostel survivors visited the Vatican. He will travel to Canada this summer to deliver the apology.

Leaders from four Newfoundland and Labrador Indigenous groups were expected to attend the prayer ceremony at the Lieutenant Governor’s residence in St. John’s. Elders and residential home survivors were also invited to participate in an incense ceremony, musical performances, a land appreciation and a minute’s silence.

Charles and Camilla will then visit Quidi Vidi, a former fishing village on the east end of St. John’s.

The couple are expected to arrive in Ottawa tonight. Her tour also takes her to the Northwest Territories.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 17, 2022.

— With files from Michael MacDonald in Halifax and Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg

Sarah Smellie and Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press


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