Charles and Camilla visit Canada amid uncertainty about British monarchy's place

Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall on three-day tour of Commonwealth nation as part of the Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee

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Prince Charles and his wife Camilla arrived in Canada on Tuesday to embark on a three-day tour of the country at time when affinity for the British Crown is waning among many in the Commonwealth country.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will visit the eastern-most province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the capital Ottawa and the Northwest Territories as Queen Elizabeth II celebrates seven decades on the throne during her Platinum Jubilee year.

Their visit, which will focus on indigenous issues and climate change, comes at a time when Canada is grappling with its racist colonial past and is questioning the purpose of having an unelected head of state 155 years after gaining independence.

The discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at the sites of former indigenous residential schools across the country has sent Canada on a year-long soul-searching mission, and Prince Charles and Camilla will acknowledge the treatment of the schools' victims.

They will take part in a "solemn moment of reflection and prayer" in a garden dedicated to the thousands who died or were abused in the school system, Britain's PA news agency reported.

In April, Pope Francis officially apologised for the Catholic Church's role in the government-run residential schools that stripped indigenous Canadians of their language and culture and often left many subjected to abuse and mistreatment.

Prince Charles is expected meet local indigenous leaders throughout the trip.

“The Prince of Wales has long believed that we need to learn from indigenous peoples around the world how better we should live in and care for nature and the planet," the prince's Clarence House said.

"Canada is seeing the impact of climate change and so this tour will highlight an emphasis on learning from indigenous peoples in Canada as well as a focus on working with businesses to find a more sustainable way of living with global warming.”

While a recent poll by the Angus Reid Institute showed the vast majority of Canadians hold Queen Elizabeth in high regard, the same is not true for her kin.

According to the online poll, which surveyed 1,607 Canadians, 50 per cent say the royal family is no longer relevant to them.

More concerning for the monarchy, more than half of Canadians view Prince Charles unfavourably.

Fifty-one percent of those surveyed believe that Canada should become a republic.

“Historically, opinion for the Crown has been favourable” said Patrick Taillon, a staunch anti-monarchist, who challenged British royal succession law in a Quebec court. “Now it's 50-50.”

Mr Taillon, a law professor at the University of Laval in Quebec City, said the transition between Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles will be a crucial moment for the monarchy in Canada.

The royal family has come under strain in recent years over Prince Andrew’s relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and allegations by Meghan Markle of racism within the family.

Mr Taillon said that has likely hurt the family’s standing abroad.

It’s not just in Canada. Last year, Barbados officially cut ties with the royal family and became a republic.

In March, Prince William and his wife Kate toured several Caribbean nations and were met with protests.

The couple’s trip to Jamaica included Prince William expressing “sorrow” for the horrors of slavery after a petition, signed by 100 prominent Jamaicans, called for a formal apology.

During the trip, Prime Minister Andrew Holness told the royal couple that Jamaica would eventually become independent.

Even if public opinion continues to sour on the royals, it is unlikely that relations between Canada and the monarchy will change much in the near term.

In order for Canada to become a republic, the Canadian constitution would have to be changed.

That would require Parliament and all 10 provinces to agree unanimously on the decision. It is a political headache that few politicians are likely to want to take on.

For those who support the Crown, it is difficult to even imagine parting ways.

"It's at the very foundation of Canadian society," said Nathan Tidridge, vice president of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada.

Mr Tidridge, who is also a high school civics and history teacher in the province of Ontario, said he was happy Prince Charles and Camilla had made the trip but was disappointed it would be for such a short amount of time.

"It's like a whistle-stop tour, which is problematic since his focus is in communicating and meeting with indigenous peoples as well as meeting with military personnel and speaking about the environment," Mr Tidridge told The National.

"More time is needed for for that."

Updated: May 17, 2022, 9:35 PM
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