Charles Tackles Colonialism to Avert Tour Crisis Like William and Kate's

Prince Charles acknowledged the "the darker and more difficult aspects" of Britain's past in Canada as he moved to avert a royal tour crisis similar to Prince William and Kate Middleton's in the Caribbean.

The Prince of Wales used a speech on the first day of his visit to the country with Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, to acknowledge reconciliation "starts with listening," on May 17.

He said indigenous people have cared for "these homelands" for "thousands of years" and acknowledged the need for "striving to do better" but stopped short of an apology.

Britain has been accused by some of cultural genocide in Canada after 150,000 indigenous children were removed from their families and sent to Christian residential schools between 1831 and 1996, Reuters reported.

The bodies of 200 children were found buried in unmarked graves in the grounds of one of those schools in British Colombia.

William and Kate grappled with similar themes when they visited Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas in March against the backdrop of protests calling for slavery reparations.

Prince Charles Visits Canada
Prince Charles arrives at the Confederation Building in St John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, in Canada, where he gave a speech acknowledging Britain's past on May 17, 2022. Charles tackled the issue faster than Prince William on a similar tour of the Caribbean. GEOFF ROBINS/AFP via Getty Images

Charles Says Reconciliation 'Starts With Listening'

Prince Charles told an audience at Confederation Building, in St John's, Canada: "As we look to our collective future, as one people sharing one planet, 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. It is a process that starts with listening.

"I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to discuss with the Governor General the vital process of reconciliation in this country—not a one-off act, of course, but an ongoing commitment to healing, respect and understanding.

"I know that our visit here this week comes at an important moment—with indigenous and non-indigenous peoples across Canada committing to reflect honestly and openly on the past and to forge a new relationship for the future"

The Royal Family and Britain's History in Canada

Indigenous community leaders in Canada have called for an apology and reparations for colonialism.

Beyond the trauma caused by the residential schools, CBC reported many First Nations communities signed agreements with the British Crown that were later violated.

Paul Andrew, a survivor of one of the residential schools, Grollier Hall, told the broadcaster: "The Queen is also a treaty member and she has an obligation to live up to the agreement. Through reconciliation, they can right the wrongs."

Quoted by CBC, Cassidy Caron, president of the Métis National Council, said: "There's so much healing that is needed. We need basic human necessities in our communities and it stems from colonization. It stems from assimilation and some financial reparations are absolutely helpful in helping us move forward."

William and Kate's Caribbean Tour Crisis

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's visit to the Caribbean spiralled so out of control that it triggered a debate about whether royal tours have a future at all.

The couple had to cancel one of their engagements in Belize after protests only to be hit by more calling for slavery reparations in Jamaica.

William did address Britain's colonial past in a speech in Kingston but that was only on day two of their time in Jamaica and day five of the tour.

By then, the couple had already been told face-to-face by Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness of the country's desire to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

There had also been an unfortunate set of pictures of the couple greeting school children through the holes in a wire mesh fence.

William and Kate's Fence Picture
Prince William and Kate Middleton greet school children through a wire mesh fence in a much criticized photograph taken during their visit to Trench Town, in Kingston, Jamaica, on March 22, 2022. Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage

How Charles' Speech Compares to William's in Jamaica

Neither royal gave the apology they had been asked for. However, Charles got his comments in on day one, much earlier than Prince William's, indicating he understood the conversations being had locally.

Charles also referenced the need to listen and name-checked indigenous First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities in his very first sentence.

William condemned slavery but, like his father, stopped short of an apology. He left his comments so late, though, that events had already spiralled beyond his control, creating the impression he had been bounced into addressing a difficult issue.

This came after much of the tour appeared to present the countries visited as attractive holiday destinations, for example when the couple swam with sharks in Belize and visited Bob Marley's former home in Trench Town.

The approach is not uncommon for the royal family as it can help the local tourist economy but is also not geared towards the politics of slavery reparations and colonialism.

Prince William said: "I strongly agree with my father, The Prince of Wales, who said in Barbados last year that the appalling atrocity of slavery forever stains our history.

"I want to express my profound sorrow. Slavery was abhorrent, and it should never have happened."

The fact he echoed past remarks by his father rather than finding his own words may also have added to a sense the royals were caught on the backfoot.

It is yet to be seen whether Prince Charles' approach will ease tensions in Canada, though early signs suggest Justin Trudeau is at least not eying becoming a republic, like countries in the Caribbean.

Quoted by Reuters, the Canadian prime minister said: "When I hear from Canadians about the things they're preoccupied about, and the things they want their governments to work on, it's not about constitutional change."

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