British Royal Visit To Canada: Prince Charles Addresses Indigenous Peoples And The Legacy Of The Crown

On May 17th, 2022, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla visited Canada as part of their three-day royal tour. Their trip included stops in Ottawa and the Northwest Territories and focused on the issues of reconciliation with indigenous peoples and climate change. Members of the indigenous community have been calling the British royal family to formally acknowledge the harm colonization did to First Nations people long before the tour. Mary Teegee, the executive director of child and family services at Carrier Sekani Family Services in the province of British Columbia, told Reuters, “They [the Royal family] also have to understand that they are not the leaders in our nation,” and added that recognition of the harms of colonization are needed rather than just a “trite” apology.

As the three-day trip came to an end, Prince Charles met privately with leaders of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation near Dettah, an Indigenous hamlet. Following the meeting, Prince Charles made a speech addressing evidence of indigenous human remains found under a former school in British Columbia. He spoke of the nation-shaking incident, calling on Canadians to listen to “the truth of the lived experiences” of Indigenous people who were forced to attend residential schools designed to eradicate their cultures and where abuse, suffering, and deaths were common. “It has been deeply moving to have met survivors of residential schools who, with such courage, have shared their experiences,” Charles further said in his speech at Yellowknife. “We all have a responsibility to listen, understand and act in ways that foster relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada.”

Indeed, it was under the crown and Canada’s own federal government that some 150,000 indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families  between 1831 and 1996. Said children were then enrolled in a Christian-run network of residential schools, and survivors’ accounts of hostile conditions have been called to extreme attention since the discovery in 2021 of the remains of more than 200 children buried in unmarked areas on the grounds of one such school in British Columbia.

It is unclear, and perhaps too early to tell, how Canadians responded to Prince Charles’ sentiments after he and his wife left the country. Past polls showed that the majority of Canadians do not favor Prince Charles’ succession to the throne. Some suggest that his sentiments inadequately address the gravity of the situation. CBC News quoted Cassidy Caron, the president of the Métis National Council, an indigenous group, on Monday when she insisted that Queen Elizabeth herself should apologize to the survivors of the cruel residential schools. Indeed, words can only go so far in amending such long-running historical grievances. The crown will have to take meaningful action in order to truly begin repairing these damages.