Prince Charles 'Deeply Moved' After Meeting Indigenous Survivors of Church Schools Scandal in Canada

·4 min read
Prince Charles
Prince Charles

Chris Jackson/Getty Images Prince Charles

Prince Charles is acknowledging the historic suffering of Indigenous people of Canada — particularly the children who were forcibly relocated to a Christian-run network of residential schools from the 19th century to the 1970s by the Anglican Church, of which Queen Elizabeth is the head.

Charles, 73, addressed the issue and sympathized with the Indigenous community in the final speech of his three-day tour of Canada alongside his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall on Thursday.

"It has been deeply moving to have met survivors of residential schools who, with such courage, have shared their experiences. On behalf of my wife and myself, I want to acknowledge their suffering and to say how much our hearts go out to them and their families," Charles said during a visit to Yellowknife, the capital city of the Northwestern Territories in Canada.

"All leaders have shared with me the importance of advancing reconciliation in Canada. We must listen to the truth of the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples, and we should work to understand better their pain and suffering. We all have a responsibility to listen, understand and act in ways that foster relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada."

Prince Charles
Prince Charles

PAUL CHIASSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Prince Charles

For decades, Indigenous children were forcibly relocated to schools run by the Anglican Church. They endured mistreatment as attempts were made to convert them to Christianity and erase their traditions and culture. As many as 150,000 children were taken from their homes to be "integrated" into a life counter to their own traditions.

Charles's comments come after a senior chief representing Canada's First Nations Indigenous communities, RoseAnne Archibald, urged him to "relay a message" to his mother Queen Elizabeth, calling on her to apologize as she is the head of the Church of England, ITV News reported.

Prince Charles and Camila
Prince Charles and Camila

PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Prince Charles and Camilla

Charles's intervention is particularly poignant as he will one day be Sovereign of Canada and will also be the head of the Church of England.

Charles kicked off his visit to Yellowknife with a roundtable discussion with the elders of Dene First Nation.

Prince Charles
Prince Charles

Ian Vogler - Pool / Getty Images

"Here we have been honored to learn more about self-determination, the vital preservation of culture and language, and the increasingly disastrous impact of climate change on ways of life and the balance of Nature," the prince added in his speech.

"We depart today with heavy hearts, having greatly appreciated the warmth and hospitality we experienced in St. John's, Ottawa and Yellowknife. I know that even across the miles, we shall remain in close touch, including through the many Canadian organizations to which my wife and I are affiliated, and which we are so proud to support. Above all, we will be closely following the next chapter in this country's remarkable story — and doing so with the greatest affection and admiration for everything that Canada and Canadians stand for in the world.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall meet representatives of the local communities, businesses and organisations at Government House 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 and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall meet representatives of the local communities, businesses and organisations at Government House 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.

Chris Jackson/Getty Prince Charles

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With the Northwest Territories warming at about three times the global rate, Charles also witnessed the impact of climate change on local communities, including being shown the nearby Ice Road passage. Its existence — enabling vehicles to travel on the Great Slave Lake when it's frozen — is in jeopardy due to climate change. Charles said that the local authorities could learn a lot about preserving habitats and combating the climate emergency from the indigenous people.

He urged them "to address this challenge by working alongside indigenous knowledge-keepers to restore harmony with Nature, while also looking at vital community-scale renewable energy solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as biofuels, hydropower, solar and wind."

Prince Charles
Prince Charles

PAUL CHIASSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Prince Charles

"We simply must learn practical lessons from traditional knowledge, through deep connections to land and water, about how we should treat our planet and, above all, recognize the vital importance of taking into account the seventh unborn generation," he said.

Camilla, 74, spent part of Thursday at a school in Dettah — Kaw Tay Whee — joining the junior kindergarten class and was invited to learn some keywords and phrases as the children took part in the program that preserves their Indigenous language, Welledeh.