Jubilee tour takes a somber turn in Canada

Governor General Mary Simon, the first Indigenous person named as the Queen’s representative in Canada, urged the royal couple to speak with Indigenous people and “hear their stories, their successes and their solutions” during their Canadian tour. “In this way, we will promote healing, understanding and respect,” she said. “And in this way, we will also promote reconciliation.”

Some Indigenous leaders, however, are calling for the royal family to go a step further and apologize for the role of the monarchy in Canada’s residential school system, which attempted over decades to strip Indigenous children of their culture and language. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of the Anglican church, which ran dozens of residential schools in Canada.

“There’s so much healing that is needed,” president of the Métis National Council Cassidy Caron told CBC News.

Last month, Pope Francis apologized at the Vatican to residential school survivors for the Catholic Church’s role in running the schools. The pope will visit Canada in July, where he is expected to build on that apology. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the senior bishop of the Anglican Church, also apologized this year.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau evaded questions this week about whether the royal family should apologize to Indigenous peoples. “This trip … is an opportunity to hear directly from Canadians, and climate change and reconciliation are key parts of their visit,” he told reporters Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Canada’s Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller told reporters Wednesday that he’s “of two minds on the issue,” and that he has yet to see a “groundswell” of support for those demanding an apology.

The royal tour also comes at a time of waning interest in the monarchy in Canada. Recent survey results found that 51 percent of respondents believe Canada should not remain a constitutional monarchy, and only 34 percent would want to remain a monarchy under “King Charles.” Half of respondents said the royal family is no longer relevant to them.

Some royal watchers say they’re disappointed by the relatively brief tour, which was planned by the federal government to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, marking her seven decades on the throne.

“It’s actually embarrassing,” John Fraser, founder of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada, told CBC News. “It would have been nice if the federal government had actually shown some interest.”

However, the trip has not been marked by the kinds of protests that greeted Prince William and Kate Middleton’s tour of the Caribbean in March. There, protesters demanded an apology and reparations for the slave trade, and the couple was forced to cancel a planned outing in Belize. In November, Barbados became the first member of the Commonwealth in decades to part ways with the Queen and become a republic.

Trudeau indicated Tuesday there’s no such change in the works for Canada. “I think Canadians are very proud to have one of the most strong, stable democracies in the world,” he told reporters. “And quite frankly, when I hear from Canadians about the things they’re preoccupied about … it’s not about constitutional change.”

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