ITV News' Royal Editor Chris Ship explains the residential schools scandal, and tells of how the royals have faced calls to apologise as they tour Canada
Prince Charles has been told in person that his mother should issue a formal apology on behalf of the Church of England for a scandal dating back to Britain’s colonial past. A senior chief representing Canada’s First Nations indigenous communities, told the heir to the throne that the Queen needed to act in her role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, RoseAnne Archibald, told ITV News that she “did respectfully request that Prince Charles relay a message to his mother, the Queen, to offer an apology on behalf of the Anglican church".
The indigenous leader met the prince at a reception in Ottawa held by the Governor General, the Queen’s representative in Canada. She handed him letters from other First Nations groups who accused the British Crown, and modern-day Canada, of gaining “great wealth” from the inheritance of the indigenous communities.
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Chief Archibald wants an apology for the role the Church of England played in the scandal of residential schools. From the early 1800s, the boarding schools - with state approval and support - forcibly removed indigenous children from their families. They attempted to convert them to Christianity and destroy their traditions and culture. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls it “cultural genocide”. The Archbishop of Canterbury has already issued a fulsome apology to Canada’s First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities - as the Church of England ran three dozen such schools in Canada.
But the Queen holds the title of Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Prince Charles was told that an apology should also come from her. Pope Francis has previously apologised to survivors of the residential schools scandal previously run by the Roman Catholic Church. “We are asking the Queen to do the same,” said Chief Archibald. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are on a three-day tour of Canada to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. She remains the Head of State and Queen of Canada - and it is one of 14 such realms which retained ties with the crown.
Charles and Camilla land in Canada’s remote Northwest Territories on Thursday. They will meet more indigenous leaders who will want to talk about similar issues with the past, but also address a threat to their future - climate change. On that issue, indigenous communities have a lot of respect for Prince Charles and he will be shown an ice road, which is a vital link between communities. The ice road is having to close earlier and earlier each year because of global warming. Temperatures in Canada’s Northwest Territories are rising three times as fast as the global average.