Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived in the Canadian Arctic on Thursday to kick off a royal visit that is scheduled to culminate in Ottawa this weekend as Canada marks its 150th birthday. Charles acknowledged the sentimental nature of his being back in Canada’s Far North, which played a key role in his first visit to Canada as prince back in 1970.
“Arriving here today brings back the happiest of memories chiefly because this is where I began my first visit to this great country almost 50 years ago,” he said, after gamely attempting a traditional Inuit greeting. “I have never forgotten the warmth of the welcome from the Inuit people, which made me feel instantly at home, as indeed I have with all Canadians on my subsequent visits.”
The day began with the royal couple’s Airbus taxiing to a stop on a windswept tarmac, the Prince of Wales flag flying from the cockpit window. A military honor guard that included the Canadian Rangers was on hand for greetings.
So too was a phalanx of dignitaries, including Gov. Gen. David Johnston, Queen Elizabeth II’s representative as Canada’s head of state.
“Your visit means a great deal to us,” Johnston said as he thanked the couple for their contributions to Canada.
Charles said he hopes the celebration of Confederation’s 150th anniversary will encourage all Canadians to look forward with hope and inspiration.
It is the 18th visit to Canada for the Prince of Wales, and the fourth visit for the Duchess of Cornwall. They were last in Canada in May 2014. Canada is a member of the British Commonwealth of former colonies.
After inspecting the guard of Canadian Rangers, Charles made his way to a stage outside the legislative building for the official welcoming ceremony, which also a performance by indigenous throat singers. The prince also met with groups focused on the promotion and preservation of the Inuit language and will stop at the Nunavut Research Institute to learn about environmental projects underway in the North.
On Friday, the couple is to travel to Ontario and Canadian Forces Base Trenton, where the Prince of Wales will meet military personnel who specialize in airlift and search and rescue operations. The pair will also visit a farmer’s market in Prince Edward County before flying to Ottawa, where they will spend Canada Day to mark the country’s 150th anniversary of Confederation.
The last official royal tour to Canada took place last fall when Prince William and his wife, Kate, visited along with their two young children for their first official trip overseas as a family of four.
While Australia, Jamaica and Barbados have talked about becoming republics, Canada has shown less interest in replacing Britain’s monarch as the figurative head of state. Canadians are somewhat indifferent to the monarchy, but most have great affection for Queen Elizabeth as well as her grandsons and Kate.