Canada's indigenous leaders ask for royal apology

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Prince Charles meets Assembly of First Nations (AFN) national chief RoseAnne Archibald at a reception hosted by Governor General of Canada Mary Simon and Canada"s Prime Minster Justin Trudeau, in Ottawa, Canada.Image source, Pool/Reuters
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Prince Charles met Assembly of First Nations (AFN) national chief RoseAnne Archibald at a reception in Ottawa

Indigenous leaders met Prince Charles in Canada and asked for an apology from the Queen over the "assimilation and genocide" of indigenous schoolchildren.

RoseAnne Archibald, Assembly of First Nations national chief, said the prince "acknowledged" failures in handling the relationship with indigenous people.

Canada is dealing with a scandal which saw indigenous children die or be abused in residential schools.

There have been calls for the Queen to apologise over the issue.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall have been on a three-day tour of Canada - where the Queen is head of state - to mark the 96-year-old monarch's Platinum Jubilee.

Ms Archibald appealed directly to Prince Charles for an apology on behalf of the Queen during a reception in the capital Ottawa, attended by indigenous leaders, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others.

Image source, Pool/Getty Images
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The royal couple went to a reception in the capital Ottawa attended by indigenous leaders, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others.

She said: "I asked for an apology from his mother the Queen, the head of the Anglican church, for whatever happened in the institutions of assimilation and genocide.

"I also asked for an apology for the failures of the Crown in that relationship that we have with them, in our treaty relationship with them."

Charles' message of listening, learning and reflecting

Calls for the Queen to apologise on behalf of the Anglican Church and Crown pre-date this visit, and so the request cannot have been a surprise to Prince Charles.

On this brief tour, there has been no shying away from acknowledging and highlighting the scandalous way many indigenous peoples have been treated in Canada.

Prince Charles has been commended for the efforts he has made - stretching back decades - to get to know Canada and its indigenous peoples.

Their deep understanding of the land and sustainability are values close to his heart.

His message is one of listening, learning and reflecting. He has acknowledged Canada's dark past but not offered an apology.

That is enough for some but not all.

The First Nations chief added that the prince did not apologise but "acknowledged" failures by Canadian governments in handling the relationship between the Crown and indigenous people, which she said "really meant something".

She said this alone was "not enough" but "a first step" and that when an apology happened it would represent "one step on the road to healing for First Nations".

Cassidy Caron, Metis National Council President, who had said before the event she would also ask for an apology from the Queen, said the prince was "listening" and "acknowledging" what had happened in Canada's past which was "very important" for the country.

The discovery of evidence of human remains at former church-run schools last year triggered a national reckoning over Canada's legacy of residential schools - where indigenous children had been forcibly relocated to for decades.

The government-funded boarding schools were part of a policy which attempted to assimilate indigenous children and destroy indigenous cultures and languages.

In a speech on the first day of his tour of Canada, the prince pledged to listen to and learn from the country as it starts the process of reconciliation with indigenous communities.

Image source, Getty Images
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On the first day of their trip to Canada, Prince Charles and Camilla observed a moment of silence to honour indigenous children who attended residential schools

Prince Charles and Camilla also visited a Heart Garden in the east coast settlement of St John's, dedicated to the victims of the residential school scandal, and met survivors during a ceremony of remembrance.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recently visited Canada and apologised for the "terrible crime" of the Anglican Church's involvement in the country's residential schools - and for his church's "grievous sins" against the indigenous peoples of Canada.

The royal couple will conclude their tour of Canada on Thursday by travelling to the Northwest Territories, where the prince will visit its ice road passage and Yellowknife Bay to see the impact of climate change on local communities.

He will also visit the Canadian Rangers to mark the organisation's 75th anniversary, while the duchess will tour a local school in Dettah to learn about teaching their indigenous language.