Prince Charles faces backlash over refusal to apologise for historic genocide in Canada

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·Freelance Writer
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Britain's Prince Charles takes part in a sustainable finance roundtable meeting in Ottawa, Ontario, as part of the Canadian Royal Tour, May 18, 2022. (Photo by Paul Chiasson / POOL / AFP) (Photo by PAUL CHIASSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Prince Charles refused to apologise on behalf of the Queen for historic genocide in Canada. (Paul Chiasson/AFP/Getty)

Prince Charles’ official trip to Canada has sparked a row after he failed to apologise on behalf of the Queen and the royal family for historic genocide in the country.

The country is dealing with a national scandal stretching back decades that saw thousands of indigenous children die or be abused in the residential school system, with hundreds of human remains discovered last year at former church-run schools.

In a speech during the first day of his tour of Canada with the Duchess of Cornwall, Charles pledged to listen and learn from Canadians embarking on a process of reconciliation to “come to terms with the darker and more difficult aspects of the past”.

When the couple first arrived in the country they visited a Heart Garden in the east coast settlement of St John’s, dedicated to the victims of the residential school scandal, and met survivors during a ceremony of remembrance in the open space.

Prince Charles, pictured with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, pledged to listen and learn from Canadians embarking on a process of reconciliation. (Chris Jackson/Getty)
Prince Charles, pictured with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, pledged to listen and learn from Canadians embarking on a process of reconciliation. (Chris Jackson/Getty)

RoseAnne Archibald, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, appealed directly to Charles for an apology from the monarch during a reception in the Canadian capital where many leading figures from the country’s indigenous community were invited, along with prime minister Justin Trudeau and other prominent individuals.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recently visited Canada and apologised for the “terrible crime” of the Anglican Church’s involvement in the country’s residential schools – and for his church’s “grievous sins” against the indigenous peoples of Canada.

Pope Francis plans to visit Canada this summer to apologise for the abuse suffered by indigenous people at the hands of the Catholic Church.

Watch: Charles aiming to 'come to terms' with Canada's dark past

However, Charles would not apologise for for the “assimilation and genocide”, but instead “acknowledged” failures by Canadian governments in handling the relationship between the Crown and indigenous people which “really meant something”.

Archibald said: “I asked for an apology from his mother the Queen, the head of the Anglican church, for whatever happened in the institutions of assimilation and genocide. I also asked for an apology for the failures of the Crown in that relationship that we have with them, in our treaty relationship with them.

“One of the things that he did say about the relationship was that he recognised there had been failures by those who are responsible for that relationship with the Crown and I thought that was a really, not a surprising thing that he said, but that kind of acknowledgement really meant something.”

A participant holds a placard with words 'Indigenious People Are People'.
Hundreds of women participated in the annual Red Dress Day march in downtown Edmonton, hosted by Project REDress, commemorating the lives of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls across Canada.
On Thursday, 5 May 2022, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Hundreds of women participated in the annual Red Dress Day march in downtown Edmonton, commemorating the lives of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls across Canada. (Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Getty)
A participant holds a placard with words 'Stolen Lives On Stolen Land'.
Hundreds of women participated in the annual Red Dress Day march in downtown Edmonton, hosted by Project REDress, commemorating the lives of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls across Canada.
On Thursday, 5 May 2022, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A participant holds a placard with words 'Stolen Lives On Stolen Land' on the Red Dress Day march. (Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Getty)

However, Archibald said the acknowledgement was “not enough” and that an apology “will just be one step on the road to healing for First Nations”.

She presented Charles with statements from two indigenous leaders highlighting claims that promises enshrined in treaties between their people and the Crown had not been honoured and asking for their grievances to be addressed.

Signage honouring missing children of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School sits on the grounds of the former residential school, in Brantford, Canada, November 9, 2021. - A search began Tuesday for more unmarked graves of students at one of Canada's oldest and longest-running former indigenous residential schools, near Toronto. (Photo by Cole Burston / AFP) (Photo by COLE BURSTON/AFP via Getty Images)
A sign hounours missing children of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School on the grounds of the former residential school, in Brantford, Canada. (Cole Burston/AFP/Getty)

Cassidy Caron, Metis National Council president, who had said before the event she would also raise the question of an apology from the Queen, said Charles was “listening” and “acknowledging” what had happened in Canada’s past which was “very important” for the country

Caron, who represents the Metis, a distinct indigenous people, originally the offspring of Indian women and European fur traders, said: “It might not have been so much of looking for the words of an apology, but in our culture it’s important to acknowledge what has happened in the past. Acknowledge the roles that individuals and institutions might have played in colonisation.

“And in the last day I have really truly seen that Prince Charles is listening and is acknowledging what has taken place in Canada’s past and that’s very important here in Canada as we continue to move forward.”

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