Royals have rainy tour of Bella Bella, B.C.

The weather in Bella Bella, B.C., had different plans for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge than what the locals had hoped, but despite some relocations and cancellations, the royal couple paid a visit to the remote northern B.C. community.

Plans for boat and float plane tours of the remote community cancelled by rain

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the remote First Nations community of Bella Bella, B.C., on Monday. (Briar Stewart/CBC)

Even before the twin-propeller plane made its bumpy descent into the Bella Bella, B.C., airport, it was abundantly clear that this was not going to be the royal welcome that had been in the works for months.

A torrential downpour meant that all of the outdoor events on the Heiltsuk First Nation were cancelled. The aerial tour by float plane and the boat ride along the coast were shelved and the traditional welcome had to be moved from the brand-new dock on the water to inside Bella Bella's one-room community centre.

Inside, a few hundred people gathered with band officials and hereditary chiefs who all cheered when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge walked in. After the initial handshaking, there were traditional dances and prayers, then William and Kate moved on with the rest of the officials to the elders lodge next door.

Kate and William received traditional First Nation blankets during a welcoming ceremony at the Heiltsuk First Nation. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

It was here where they took part in the official ceremony to dedicate the Great Bear Rainforest to the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy.

The initiative was launched last year in an effort to unite the Commonwealth in forest conservation efforts. William said that so far, 15 of the 53 Commonwealth countries have already made commitments to protect indigenous forests, or plant new ones.

"When we protect our rivers, oceans, atmospheres or like today, our forests we are telling our children that their future prosperity cannot be disconnected from the health of the natural world," he said.

The Great Bear Rainforest is 6.4 million hectares, or roughly the size of Ireland. It's an area rich with wildlife and biodiversity and it is the only place in the world where there are all white Kermode bears — also known as spirit bears.

The dedication to the Commonwealth Canopy is largely symbolic, because earlier this year, after a decade of negotiation, the B.C. government, industry and the First Nations reached an agreement to protect 85 per cent of the forest from logging.

William and Kate listen to First Nations members before being presented with paddles following a plaque unveiling in the Great Bear Rainforest. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Still, community members are grateful for the royal visit, saying it shone a larger spotlight on the need to protect the vast wilderness.

"It is important to our values and to pass it down to our children," said Tara Hunt, a Bella Bella resident, and mother of four.

"Having them witness this event today, they can carry it on from there."

Hunt stood on the side of the road watching as the royal motorcade pulled away, just as the blue sky began to break through the thick layer of clouds.

She was disappointed the royals didn't get to see all of Bella Bella's natural beauty, but said either way it was a historic moment for the remote community.

"I was so nervous. My tummy was full of butterflies. I still can't believe they came here. It's outrageous."

Next up for William and Kate is a visit to Kelowna, B.C., where they will meet students at UBC Okanagan, watch a volleyball match followed by a wine tasting at Mission Hill Winery. In the evening they will fly to Whitehorse to meet some Canadian Rangers and see a performance at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre.


Briar Stewart is a correspondent for CBC News. She has been covering Canada and beyond for more than 15 years and can be reached at or on Twitter @briarstewart