Prince Charles praises 'remarkable' Canada during his tour of Ottawa with wife Camilla
Indigenous reconciliation, climate change are top of mind for Prince Charles as he tours Canada
Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall toured Ottawa on this second day of their royal visit to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee — a city he recently called "the much-storied capital at the heart of a great nation."
The heir to the throne and the future Queen consort are taking part in their first visit to Canada in five years. That lengthy absence was largely due to the COVID-19 health crisis bringing this sort of travel to a halt. While they've been away for a while, Charles is no stranger to Canada — this is his 19th visit.
The jam-packed day — filled with Canadiana like the RCMP musical ride and more heady subjects like the war in Ukraine and the efforts to rescue refugees from war-torn regions — was drama-free for the Royal Family, which has faced its fair share for scandal over the last two years.
While Prince William and Catharine, Duchess of Cambridge faced protests during their eight-day swing through the Caribbean earlier this year, Charles and Camilla were warmly welcomed at every stop in the nation's capital.
Polls suggest Charles is much less popular than this mother, the Queen, but there was no signs of opposition today as thousands came out for a chance to see the next king.
Charles's itinerary for the tour was planned by Canadian Heritage, the federal department that manages all things royal, with input from the Prime Minister's Office. It was an itinerary tailor-made for the Prince and his wife as it features discussions about climate change, literacy and Indigenous peoples — issues the two royals champion in the U.K. and throughout the Commonwealth.
Charles started the day with Governor General Mary Simon and her husband, Whit Fraser. While at Rideau Hall — the official residence for visiting members of the Royal Family — Charles was invested as an extraordinary commander in the Order of Military Merit, an order that recognizes exceptional service by active members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).
In his lifetime, Charles has accepted nine honorary appointments and three honorary ranks in the CAF.
Charles and Camilla then travelled to the National War Memorial — the scene of some controversy during this winter's trucker convoy protests — to lay a wreath and a bouquet of flowers to honour Canada's war dead.
Charles, who is the colonel-in-chief of the Black Watch, Royal Highland Regiment, inspected some of the assembled military personnel. Camilla did the same for the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, a Toronto regiment of which she is the honorary colonel. A bugler played the Last Post and the Piper's Lament followed — songs traditionally played at Remembrance Day ceremonies.
Remarkably, the police left the streets that surround the memorial open to vehicular traffic. About a thousand people, some of them carrying Canadian, British and Ukrainian flags, gathered around the perimeter of the memorial to catch a glimpse of the visiting couple.
After the short military ceremony, the couple wandered into the crowd to shake hands with eager royal watchers, some of whom shouted, "Please come this way!" and "Thanks for coming!"
Among the well-wishers was Cecile Dumont, 63, who travelled across the river from Quebec to see the the couple. She managed to get a selfie with Charles and she was shaking as they captured the image.
"I love him, really I do," she said, adding she arrived four hours before the ceremony.
"He's a wonderful man and our future king. I think the popularity of the monarchy is declining but I absolutely love the royals. I think he will make a wonderful monarch. I think it is good for our government to have a Royal Family. It's dual responsibility."
The couple then ventured over to the ByWard Market, the farmer's market in the city centre. Charles — a well-known proponent of organic farming — spoke to local vendors at stalls overflowing with seasonal produce like garlic and fiddleheads.
During a walkabout, the couple were mobbed by locals eager to lay eyes on the future king. The noticeably skittish security team kept a watchful eye on the crowds and struggled to keep onlookers a few feet from the couple as they walked.
Visiting members of the British press corps got a chance to sample the celebrated fried dough pastries for sale at the Beavertails stand as the royal couple passed by.
"It's Prince Charles!" said the stall's owner, Pam Hooker, as the Queen's son approached. "It's a glorious day," Camilla said as Hooker stood holding a tray of the pastries.
Weather conditions in Ottawa were close to perfect at 1 p.m., with full sun and a high of 16 C.
Under clear blue skies, the royal couple took in a performance of the RCMP's famed musical ride with well over a thousand well wishers on hand — the first performance of this elaborate equestrian routine since the start of the pandemic.
Sitting next to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, Charles and Camilla appeared amused as the 32-horse cavalry dazzled the crowd with their skills, choreographed to well-known Canadian songs like Shania Twain's "Up."
The riders, all regular RCMP officers, showed off tricks like the "clover leaf" and the "star" as the crowd cheered.
"It's a honour to host the royals. It's been a long time since they were here and we know they just love horses," said Insp. Roshan Pinto, an RCMP officer in red serge on hand to escort the royals.
"His Royal Highness is our commissioner-in-chief so we have that connection, we have strong ties with the royals. I'm hoping it strengthens the bonds between Canada and the family."
After the ride, Charles had a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the opulent Large Drawing Room at Rideau Hall, a space often used to entertain visiting heads of state.
"It's wonderful to be able to sit down with you to talk about so many things that are going on in Canada and continue the work that you have been doing on the environment and so many different issues that matter. It's a real pleasure to welcome you here," Trudeau said to Charles.
"It is always a joy to come to Canada," the prince said in response.
Alongside Trudeau, Charles participated in a roundtable on "sustainable finance" to promote market-based solutions to climate change.
For the second time in two days, Charles made a point of publicly praising Canada for its efforts to welcome refugees.
"We have met all sorts of people and I must say I am so full of admiration for the Canadian approach to welcoming so many people who are displaced from all these conflict-ridden parts of the world," he said.
"So many communities and individuals have sponsored refugees. It is remarkable how welcoming everyone was."
Meetings with Ukrainian community, refugees
Charles also praised Canada's efforts to support Ukraine as it fights off Russian aggression, and its efforts to tackle climate change through green initiatives.
With those issues top of mind on this tour, Charles visited the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral to meet with members of the local Ukrainian-Canadian community. He participated in a prayer with the congregation and dined on perogies.
At a solo engagement, Camilla visited Assumption School in Ottawa's Vanier neighbourhood, an ethnically diverse and low-income part of the city, to meet with students and promote literacy projects.
Camilla, an avid reader who launched a book club last year, read the children's book The Library Bus, a story about the struggles girls face in Afghanistan, to Grade One students.
She spoke in French with the schoolchildren — many of them African migrants and refugees.
"Everybody is on their best behaviour!" she said while a teacher demonstrated the school's book "vending machine," which pops out a new book for the children to read every month.
Charles has said he'll use this tour to learn more about what Canada is doing to reconcile with Indigenous peoples after centuries of colonial violence.
Charles said that, before the trip, he spoke with Governor General Simon about the country's reconciliation efforts. Simon — the first Indigenous person to serve in this role — will host the royal couple at Rideau Hall later this evening.
"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," Charles said Tuesday. "Acknowledging, reconciling and striving to do better — it is a process that starts with listening."
On tomorrow's leg of the three-day trip, Charles will meet with Indigenous peoples in the Northwest Territories.
This relatively short three-day royal tour has been criticized by some monarchists in Canada. Monarchists have said Canada — one of the senior members of the Commonwealth of Nations and a country with a long history with the Crown — deserved more in this special year.
'We need to see the future king'
Nathan Tidridge, the vice-president of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada and a researcher on Crown-Indigenous relations, said it's important for Charles and other members of the Royal Family to routinely visit Canada to continue the centuries-long relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Crown.
While he's also frustrated with the tour's constrained timeline, Tidridge said he's happy to see that the itinerary includes time for engagement with Indigenous peoples.
"We need to see the future king in this country. The Queen famously said, 'I need to be seen to be believed,' and the same is true here," Tidridge said.