Live updates: Prince Charles and Camilla visit Canada


Live updates: Prince Charles and Camilla visit Canada

Recognition…Pool photo by Ian Vogler

DETTAH, Northwest Territories – Royal visits are usually characterized by pomp, carefully prepared ceremonies and lavish evenings. And there was certainly some of that during a three-day visit to Canada by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, including a glittering reception in Ottawa at the official residence of Queen Elizabeth’s representative to Canada.

But on Thursday, the last day of the royal tour, The tenor will likely be much more muted when Charles and Camilla visit the Northwest Territories.

The couple will travel to an indigenous community in the far north, the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, where history with the British monarchy has been painful.

There’s a centuries-old treaty that the community says the Crown has broken. And there’s the murky legacy of Canada’s now-defunct mandatory residential home system for Indigenous children, for which the Dene blame the Crown in part.

Unlike their previous visits to Canada, when the couple arrives at the Yellowknives Dene First Nation at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, there will be no red carpet or other showpiece at the airport. They will step on gravel, and as they meet with Indigenous leaders, they will ask tough questions.

Charles’ itinerary for his tour of Canada, including the visit to Yellowknives, was set by the Ottawa government, underscoring the extent to which the country’s history of indigenous discrimination has become a major political issue.

In April, Pope Francis issued the first direct papal apology to indigenous people for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the hostels. He plans to visit Canada in July to make a face-to-face apology.

Recognition…Amber Bracken for the New York Times

Edward Sangris is the chief of the Dene who is expected to meet with Charles and Camilla in the hamlet of Detah. According to him, a visit by the future King of the Commonwealth to a tiny indigenous community is an act of reconciliation that affirms the indigenous people’s demands for justice.

On Monday, the couple attended a reconciliation event in the province of Newfoundland, where they met with Mary Simon, the first Indigenous person to serve as Governor-General of Canada, the Queen’s official representative in Canada.

In the historic town of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Charles said, “I know our visit here this week comes at an important time when Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples across Canada are making a commitment to be honest and open about the past to think and forge something new relationship for the future.”

Chief Sangris, 68, was among the thousands of children who were sent to boarding schools. He was a Catholic-run facility in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories until his father defied authorities and kept him at home.

He declined to speak about his experience there in an interview, but said the schools – which have become a national scandal and which a government commission has found a form of “cultural genocide” – will likely be a topic of conversation.

“This is a way of reconciliation,” Chief Sangris said. “While they are not directly responsible for the harm and pain caused, they are indirectly responsible for the Canadian government’s actions.”

Given that Charles is not yet king, Chief Sangris said he did not expect an apology from Charles on behalf of the royal family.

Charles and Camilla’s visit to Detah is scheduled to last an hour. The pair will also stop in the territorial capital of Yellowknife to meet with members of a special military reserve unit in remote northern communities and visit the rapidly melting remains of an ice road to discuss climate change.

Chief Sangris said he recognizes the Canadian government’s responsibility and role in indigenous affairs, but believes the monarchy’s symbolic role in making treaties also holds it responsible for subsequent violations.

In addition to complaints about Indigenous schools, the Dene believe they will receive compensation for the permit Mining projects on their ancestral lands are less than what should be under the Crown treaty.

Chief Sangris said the royal visit is unlikely to resolve that dispute or address other critical Dene issues, including a severe housing shortage. Chief Sangris’ father met Charles in 1970 when Charles and his mother, Queen Elizabeth, were visiting Yellowknives. Chief Sangris also met with them at the time and said many issues raised at the time remained unresolved.

Chief Sangris said of Thursday’s royal visit: “I don’t know what he will accomplish for us.”

Broadly speaking, this is a time of tension over the role of the monarchy in Britain’s former overseas territories. Separate trips to the Caribbean this year by Prince Edward, brother of Charles, and Prince William, the future prince, have been the target of protests against the monarchy and Britain’s brutal historic involvement in slavery.

In Canada, Charles has not faced such vocal public opposition. But polls show that fewer Canadians want to pledge allegiance to another British monarch because the institution seems increasingly irrelevant to their lives.

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