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Charles and Camilla urged to address Canada’s treatment of First Nations people

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall sign a guest book during their visit to Canada House in London, ahead of the forthcoming tour (Hannah McKay/PA)
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall sign a guest book during their visit to Canada House in London, ahead of the forthcoming tour (Hannah McKay/PA)

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are facing calls from indigenous communities for the monarchy to formally apologise for the treatment of First Nations people in Canada’s school system.

Charles and Camilla begin a three-day visit to Canada which follows recent overseas tours by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Earl and Countess of Wessex that were criticised by campaigners seeking reparations for slavery or for their nations to become republics.

Cassidy Caron, Metis National Council President, has reportedly said she will raise with the prince and duchess the issue of the Queen, Canada’s head of state, apologising for the abuse indigenous people in Canada’s residential schools suffered and paying reparations, when they meet at a reception on Wednesday.

Charles and Camilla will begin their tour by acknowledging the treatment of the schools’ victims, taking part in a “solemn moment of reflection and prayer” in a garden dedicated to the thousands who died or were abused in the school system.

Ms Caron, who represents the Metis, a distinct indigenous people, originally the offspring of Indian women and European fur traders, told CBC News: “There’s so much healing that is needed.”

Royal visit to Canada House
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are visiting Canada (Hannah McKay/PA)

She added: “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.”

Canada 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.

Chris Fitzgerald, deputy private secretary to the prince for foreign, commonwealth and development affairs, said following a formal welcome: “Their Royal Highnesses will first take part in a solemn moment of reflection and prayer at the Heart Garden, on the grounds of Government House, with indigenous leaders and community members in the spirit of reconciliation.

“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 tour will begin in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and also see the couple travel to Ottawa and Yellowknife, the capital city of the Northwest Territories.

Royal visit to Canada
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall on a previous visit to Canada (Chris Jackson/PA)

Charles is expected to speak about the Queen’s “profound affection she feels for Canada and its people” during the first day.

The tour is part of Canada’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations marking the Queen’s 70-year reign and Charles is also expected to speak of “service to family, to community and to country” which is “what makes Canada so special, and what my family and I have long admired”.

During their three-day trip the couple will also recognise the country’s response to the conflict in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion and meet members of Canada’s Ukrainian community, the largest outside Europe.

Charles and Camilla will highlight causes they have championed in the past, from supporting the victims of domestic abuse, highlighting the issue of climate change and recognising the role of Canada’s Armed Forces.

Highlights of the visit will see the couple tour the family-run Quidi Vidi Brewery famous for “iceberg” beer made from 20,000-year-old water harvested from icebergs which migrate seasonally to Newfoundland.

In Ottawa Charles will discuss the impact of global warming and engage with leaders from across public, private and philanthropic sectors working to build a green economy.

With the Northwest Territories warming at about three times the global rate Charles will visit its ice road passage or Yellowknife Bay to see the impact of climate change on local communities.

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