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Prince Charles and Camilla launch Canadian tour

St. John’s-

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrived in St. John’s, Newfoundland on Tuesday to begin a three-day Canadian tour that will largely focus on reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Under partly cloudy skies, the couple landed at St. John’s International Airport aboard a Canadian government jet. They then headed in motorcade to a welcoming ceremony at the Provincial Legislative Assembly 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 people in the crowd. On the steps leading to the Legislative Assembly, about a hundred schoolchildren waved small Canadian and provincial flags.

Year 6 student Anna Jeans said she was thrilled at the chance to get a high-five from Charles or Camilla. “I’m very excited,” she said, tiptoeing up. “It’s a great opportunity for me.”

Nearby, Tara Kelly – wearing a homemade fascinator with a large plume of green feathers – said she has long been a fan of the Royal Family. “It’s a fantasy,” she said.

Inside the Confederation Building’s purple-lit foyer, the Prince and Duchess watched Innu Elder Elizabeth Penashue deliver a blessing and Inuit soprano Deantha Edmunds sang.

The event began with a territorial recognition honoring the province’s five Aboriginal groups as well as the Beothuk, who were among the original inhabitants of Newfoundland, with a history 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 learn their stories.

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

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

“We must find new ways to come to terms with the darker and more difficult aspects of the past, acknowledging, reconciling and striving to do better,” he said. “It’s a process that starts with listening.”

The prince said he discussed with the governor-general the “vital process” of reconciliation.

“(It’s) not a one-time act, of course, 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, who are committed to honestly and openly reflecting on the past.

Charles and Camilla then moved to Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor. Judy Foote, Queen’s Representative in the Province.

Outside the residence, they will participate in a prayer of reconciliation with Indigenous leaders at the Heart Garden, which was built to honor Indigenous children who attended residential schools in the province.

Earlier today, Trudeau said reconciliation would be part of the talks Charles and Camilla would engage in during their visit. But the Prime Minister avoided answering when asked if he thought the Queen should apologize for the legacy of residential schools.

“Reconciliation has been a fundamental priority for this government since we were elected, and there are many, many things that we all need to work on together,” he said. “But we know it’s not just about government and Indigenous people. It’s about everyone doing their part, and that’s definitely something everyone is going to have.”

Métis National Council President Cassidy Caron said she intended to present an apology to the prince and duchess at a reception on Wednesday at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

Caron said residential school survivors told her the Queen’s apology was important because she is Canada’s head of state and head of the Anglican Church. “The 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 residential schools when Indigenous leaders and residential school survivors visited the Vatican. He will travel to Canada to apologize this summer.

Leaders of four of the Indigenous groups in Newfoundland and Labrador were scheduled to attend the prayer service at the Lieutenant Governor’s residence in St. John’s. Elders and residential school survivors were also invited to participate in a smudging ceremony, musical performances, recognition of the land and a moment of silence.

Charles and Camilla will then visit Quidi Vidi, an old fishing community in east St. John’s.

The couple are expected to arrive in Ottawa tonight. Their tour will also take them 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

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