A whirlwind visit by Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, has ended but the calls for meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples have not.
The couple departed Canada Thursday night after a three-day tour that began in St. John’s, N.L., with a solemn moment of reflection on residential school deaths and ended in the North with a meeting with First Nations chiefs on climate change.
Charles told people in Yellowknife that he was deeply moved by conversations with survivors who courageously shared their experiences of the schools.
Earlier in the visit, leaders of the Assembly of First Nations and the Métis National Council requested an apology from the Queen, as head of the Church of England.
While not addressing that request, the prince said community members and leaders at every stop emphasized the importance of reconciliation.
Indigenous author and community developer Lynda Gray says there was plenty of listening and reflecting instead of concrete action.
Gray, a member of the Tsimshian (Ts’msyen) First Nation on the northwest coast of British Columbia, says that amounts to “just another PR event.”
Royal historian and author Carolyn Harris says the tour struck the right note in addressing topical concerns that included meetings with Indigenous Peoples, addressing the Russian invasion of Ukraine and climate change.
But Harris says the Platinum Jubilee visit was always unlikely to produce a formal apology to Indigenous Peoples because the royals generally refrain from wading anywhere near politics.
Harris says the traditional approach played out in Canada — “commemorations of various kinds, acknowledging past wrongs, rather than a formal apology.”
Gray says there are many meaningful things the monarchy could do immediately to show sincere desire to address past wrongs, even without an apology.
“They have documents in their possession about the treaties – the true intent of the treaties – (as well as) about residential schools, at least the Anglican Church does,” says Gray, reached in Victoria while on tour with a new edition of her book, “First Nations 101.”
“I don’t think that Canadians fully understand the prince and the Queen’s role in treaties and that sort of stuff, and how influential they can be in helping to force Canada to live up to their treaty responsibilities in their true intent.”
Harris notes the Canadian visit was in line with a trend to schedule shorter, more targeted royal tours rather than coast-to-coast journeys of previous decades.
That gave rise to complaints in some parts of the country of being skipped-over, and made for packed schedules in the communities that did get included.
“Sometimes it was difficult to stick to the times of the various itineraries as there was so much ground to be covered in such a short period of time,” says Harris.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 20, 2022.