In Canada in the 1800s, Anglican and Catholic churches began forcibly removing Indigenous children from their families and their communities. The practice continued well into the 1960s. Children were sent to church-run boarding schools, and in recent years, people have learned even further depths of horror, as unmarked graves were found all around those boarding schools. The Indigenous communities – the First Nations – have demanded apologies from the Anglican church, from the Vatican and from the British royal family. The Queen is the head of the Church of England, and the practice of removing children from their families started when Canada was a British colony. Weeks ago, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Justin Welby) made a formal apology and he listened to survivors’ stories. Pope Francis also made a formal apology and he begged for forgiveness and he spoke movingly about intergenerational trauma.
All of which means that there is still one big formal apology missing: an apology from Queen Elizabeth II or perhaps the Prince of Wales. Charles and Camilla are doing their whirlwind Canadian tour right now, trying to fly under the radar to avoid protests or big, public flops. Clarence House repeatedly emphasized that this Canadian tour was less of a Jubbly tour and more like Charles and Camilla coming to Canada to show their respect to the First Nations communities. Charles ended up making a speech. The speech did not include the words “I’m sorry” or “on behalf of the Queen, we are so deeply sorry” or “what happened was completely horrific and there is no apology big enough, but still I offer one.” Instead, Charles yammered about reconciliation.
Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall have arrived in Canada — and the royal heir wasted no time in addressing the need to “come to terms with the darker and more difficult aspects of the past.”
Prince Charles, 73, gave a speech at the Confederation Building shortly after landing, thanking Canadians for their warm welcome as they kick off a three-day tour in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, as Canada is one of the 14 countries outside of the U.K. where the Queen is head of state.
“It is with the greatest respect that both my wife and I begin our visit to these homelands that have been lived in and cared for by Indigenous peoples — First Nations, Métis and Inuit — for thousands of years,” he began. Prince Charles said he had spoken with the Governor-General about the “vital process” of reconciliation in the wake of the mistreatment of Indigenous people of the region, particularly the children who were forcibly relocated from the 19th century to the 1970s by the Anglican Church — of which the Queen is the head.
“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: acknowledging, reconciling and striving to do better. It is a process that starts with listening,” he said. “I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to discuss with the Governor-General the vital process of reconciliation in this country – not a one-off act, of course, but an ongoing commitment to healing, respect and understanding. I know that our visit here this week comes at an important moment — with Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples across Canada committing to reflect honestly and openly on the past and to forge a new relationship for the future.”
He added, “As we begin this Platinum Jubilee visit, which will take us from the newest member of Confederation to among the oldest communities in the North — and to a much-storied capital at the heart of a great nation — my wife and I look forward to listening to you and learning about the future you are working to build.”
After the speech, the royal couple took part “in a solemn moment of reflection and prayer at the Heart Garden, on the grounds of Government House, with Indigenous leaders and community members in the spirit of reconciliation,” Chris Fitzgerald, Deputy Private Secretary said last month. “Heart Gardens are in memory of all Indigenous children who were lost to the residential school system, in recognition of those who survived, and the families of both.”
There’s nothing wrong with doing the heavy and long work of reconciliation. But I believe the reconciliation process can only begin when facts are established and agreed upon with both sides attempting to reconcile. As in, one side needs to say: this was wrong, this was criminal, this is one of the biggest tragedies of the 19th and 20th centuries, my ancestors brutalized your ancestors and I acknowledge and apologize for the history, the wrongdoing, the crimes. Then the reconciliation process can begin. Charles isn’t doing that. When even Pope Franny and the Archbishop of Canterbury are more willing to apologize and humbly ask for mercy, what does that say about the Windsors?
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Embed from Getty Images
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