A delegation of Indigenous leaders from Canada has met with King Charles ahead of Saturday’s coronation.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed and Métis National Council President Cassidy Caron had an audience at Buckingham Palace.
Obed says the leaders were able to talk about the issues facing their communities and invited the King to visit Canada to continue the work of reconciliation.
The three leaders say this meeting was about establishing a relationship with the King, and that the tougher conversations about Canada’s colonial history will come later.
Other Indigenous leaders have also travelled to London for the coronation, including several grand chiefs from Manitoba.
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee and Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Cathy Merrick say they’ve come in part to remind the King of his treaty relationship with Canada’s Indigenous people.
Last year, while still Prince of Wales, King Charles III opened a meeting of Commonwealth heads of government in Rwanda’s capital of Kigali and pitched Canada as an example for the world to follow.
In a speech that reflected on the relationship between Commonwealth countries and the Crown, and on the roots of the association that run deep into the African slave trade, he commended Canada’s commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
“As challenging as that conversation can be, people across Canada are approaching it with courage and unwavering commitment, determined to lay a foundation of respect and understanding upon which a better future can be built,” he said.
“It seems to me that there are lessons in this for our Commonwealth family.”
In over 50 years of trips to Canada as prince, Charles has stressed a connection to Canada that stretches back decades, encompassing official visits, family trips and brief stopovers during his military service. But as Saturday’s coronation marks the final step in his succession of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, he’ll have to forge a new relationship with the country as King.
Most recently, King Charles and Camilla, the Queen Consort, travelled to Canada in May 2022 as part of the celebrations of the Queen’s platinum jubilee, when they were still Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. The three-day tour was focused on climate change, literacy and reconciliation efforts with Indigenous Peoples.
The jubilee tour began in St. John’s, N.L., with a solemn moment of reflection on residential school deaths and ended in the North with a meeting with First Nations chiefs on climate change.
Prince Charles said he was deeply moved by conversations with survivors who courageously shared their experiences at residential schools. “I want to acknowledge their suffering and to say how much our hearts go out to them and their families,” he said during the visit, which some considered a step forward in Crown-Indigenous relations.
Royal experts say the King nevertheless faces a daunting challenge in establishing himself in a country that has become skeptical of the monarchy, and in a role that has been so inextricably linked to his mother in the minds of many Canadians.
And, while King Charles made a clear effort to engage with Indigenous people — and is believed to have made a point of ensuring they were invited to his coronation — his speeches in Canada stopped short of issuing the apology some Indigenous leaders had called for.
The King’s desire for a “slimmed-down” monarchy and his new duties may mean that future tours to Canada could become shorter, or rarer — which could make it hard to build connections.
King Charles’s relationship with Canada stretches back to his first official visit in 1970, which included touring Manitoba and the Northwest Territories with other members of the Royal Family. During his more recent visits, he has been accompanied by Camilla, whose distant Canadian ancestry he has mentioned.
“Every time I come to Canada … a little more of Canada seeps into my bloodstream — and from there straight to my heart,” he told a crowd in Newfoundland in 2009.
Those official visits have often featured the photo ops and official ceremonies the Canadian public has come to expect from the royals — including Prince Charles dancing a Dene drum dance in Yellowknife and pouring pints of beer in Newfoundland and Labrador on his most recent trip.
They have also touched on more serious subjects. Over the years, his visits to Canada often included events and conversations centred on climate change — a subject on which he has become increasingly outspoken.
In Ottawa last year, the then-prince urged Canada to use its “incredible influence” at the G7 and in other international forums to work on solutions to the climate and biodiversity crisis.
“I’ve been trying to bring people from around the world together on sustainability for something dreadful like 40 years now,” he said.
“Now after endless procrastination, time is running out. So with trillions of dollars in assets, the private sector and private finance hold the ultimate key, I believe, to our success.”
King Charles has made several visits to Canada’s North, where he was so moved by the ”matchless beauty” of the northern lights on a visit to Whitehorse that he said he tried to capture them in a painting.
More recently, he’s taken a particular interest in efforts to preserve the Inuit language and culture, including issuing an invitation to an Inuit group to travel to Wales in 2016 to discuss efforts to standardize the writing system for Inuktitut.
His coronation is expected to be less lavish than his mother’s and include more people from all walks of life. The ceremony will, for the first time, include the active participation of faiths other than the Church of England, will include female bishops for the first time, as well as hymns and prayers sung in Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic. After Charles is crowned, the traditional homage of the peers will be replaced by an “homage of the people,” in which people in the Abbey and those watching on television will be invited to affirm their allegiance to the king.
Royal watchers have said the King’s first months on the throne have shown he’s a monarch who will take an active role in causes and is ready to engage with the public, but he still has work to do to win over skeptical Canadians. Polling released in March by marketing firm Leger found 67 per cent of Canadians surveyed were indifferent to the King, compared with only 12 per cent who said it was good that he was monarch.
Just 13 per cent of those surveyed said they felt a personal attachment to the monarchy, and more than half said it’s the right time for the country to reconsider its ties with the institution.
The eldest son of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip was born in 1948 at Buckingham Palace and was proclaimed heir apparent at the age of three when his mother took the throne. After graduating university in 1970, he trained as a military pilot, which included a stint at the Canadian Forces Base in Gagetown, N.B., where he trained “at an exercise area in the middle of nowhere,” he would later say.
At the age of 74, he is the oldest person to ever assume the British throne.
—Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press