Prince Charles Addresses U.K.'s 'Dark' and 'Difficult' Colonial Past in Canada amid Calls for an Apology

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Prince Charles, Prince of Wales attends the Confederation Building on day one of the Platinum Jubilee Royal Tour of Canada on May 17, 2022 in Saint John's, Canada. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are visiting for three days from 17th to 19th May 2022. The tour forms part of Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales attends the Confederation Building on day one of the Platinum Jubilee Royal Tour of Canada on May 17, 2022 in Saint John's, Canada. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are visiting for three days from 17th to 19th May 2022. The tour forms part of Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Arthur Edwards - Pool/Getty Prince Charles

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.

RELATED: Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall Kick Off Their Royal Tour in Canada

Prince Charles and Camilla
Prince Charles and Camilla

Chris Jackson/Getty Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles

"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."

Starting in the 19th century, thousands of Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities and enrolled in a Christian-run network of residential schools — and last year, hundreds of unmarked graves were discovered at the side of former residential schools for Indigenous children. The process started when Canada was still a British colony. In recent years, community leaders have called for an apology from the Anglican Church, which ran dozens of the schools until 1969.

Prince Charles
Prince Charles

Arthur Edwards/Pool/Getty Prince Charles

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."

Charles and Camilla are expected to focus on local communities, continuing a relationship the Prince of Wales has fostered over decades while on visits to Canada, during the tour.

"Throughout the tour, Their Royal Highnesses will take the opportunity to continue to engage with Indigenous communities. Over five decades, HRH continues to learn from Indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world," Fitzgerald said. "[The Prince] recognizes their deep ties to the land and water and the critical traditional knowledge they hold to restore harmony between people and nature."

Prince Charles and Camila
Prince Charles and Camila

Jacob King/Pool/Getty Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

Earlier this month, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby apologized for the "terrible crime" of the Anglican Church's involvement in the residential school system during a visit to Canada.

"I am more sorry than I can say. I am ashamed. I am horrified," Welby said after hearing stories from survivors.

In April, Pope Francis apologized for the involvement of Catholic church members.

"For the deplorable conduct of those members of the Catholic Church, I ask for God's forgiveness and I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry. And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon," he said, according to Vatican News. "It is chilling to think of determined efforts to instill a sense of inferiority, to rob people of their cultural identity, to sever their roots, and to consider all the personal and social effects that this continues to entail: unresolved traumas that have become intergenerational traumas."

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge attend the inaugural Commissioning Parade
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge attend the inaugural Commissioning Parade

Karwai Tang/WireImage Prince William and Kate Middleton

All eyes will be on Prince Charles and Camilla's reception by Canadians in the wake of Prince William and Kate Middleton's controversial tour of Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas as well as Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex's visit to other Caribbean countries — both of which were met with protests over Britain's colonial past and historic role in the slave trade and questions over Queen as head of state.

During his tour of the Caribbean, William, 39, expressed his "sorrow" at the "abhorrent" history of slavery that shames the U.K. — though for some, he didn't go far enough and actually apologize.

At the end of the tour, the Duke of Cambridge released a landmark statement, reflecting on the future governance of the Caribbean nations.

"I know that this tour has brought into even sharper focus questions about the past and the future. In Belize, Jamaica and The Bahamas, that future is for the people to decide upon," he said.