ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland -- Prince Charles and Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall, arrived in St. John’s, Newfoundland on Friday, to begin a three-day Canadian tour to mark the 70th anniversary of his mother’s ascent to the throne.
The royal couple’s itinerary includes stops in Ottawa and the Northwest Territories as well as a welcome ceremony at Newfoundland’s provincial legislature with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state in Canada, a member of the British Commonwealth of former colonies.
“In an era where the global institutions of democracy look distressingly fragile, Canada is a model of determination and humanity,” Charles said. “Today more than ever we need the spirit of initiative, compassion and humanity of Canadians.”
Earlier Tuesday, Trudeau said reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous people will form part of the discussions Charles and Camilla engage in during their visit. But the prime minister avoided answering when asked if he thinks the queen should apologize for the legacy of residential schools.
From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 First Nations children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools as part of a program to assimilate them into Canadian society. They were forced to convert to Christianity and not allowed to speak their Native languages. Many were beaten and verbally abused, and up to 6,000 are said to have died.
Charles and Camilla will take part in a reconciliation prayer with Indigenous leaders. Metis National Council President Cassidy Caron has said she intends to make a request for an apology to the prince and duchess during a reception Wednesday in Ottawa.
Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, 96-year-old Elizabeth has stopped making international trips and has dramatically cut back on her public duties, although she made a surprise visit Tuesday to a train station in central London to see a newly completed subway line named in her honor.
Last week, she asked her son and heir to the throne to preside over the state opening of the UK Parliament and deliver the Queen’s Speech, which lays out the government’s legislative program.
The royal couple’s tour in Canada comes as some Caribbean nations are considering removing the queen as head of state. Barbados cut ties with the queen in November, transforming from a constitutional monarchy to a republic. Jamaica has also talked about becoming a republic but has made no moves.
Trudeau said Canadians don’t want constitutional change and have other priorities.
Overall, the antiroyal movement in Canada is minuscule, meaning that Charles will almost certainly be king of Canada one day. One reason is that abolishing the monarchy would mean changing the constitution. That’s an inherently risky undertaking, given how delicately it is engineered to unite a nation of 34 million that embraces English-speakers, French-speakers, indigenous tribes and a constant flow of new immigrants.
Most Canadians are indifferent to the monarchy, even though the queen is their titular head of state and is portrayed on their coins and stamps, and has visited them 22 times as head of state.
“The Queen asked me to express her best wishes in this special year and her express her deep affection for Canada and all Canadians. Throughout her life since her first visit to Canada in 1951, her majesty became very attached to Canada,” Charles said.