ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Prince Charles began his first visit to Canada with the Duchess of Cornwall on Monday by making an impassioned appeal for global leadership on climate change.
“We are at a defining moment for our civilization,” Charles told a warm welcoming ceremony that included Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams.
“Unless we can all, both individually and collectively, take the actions which we now know are necessary, the future is going to be very bleak indeed.”
Charles made the comments as he and Camilla embarked on an 11-day tour that includes a jammed itinerary in Newfoundland, Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec.
Charles, a green advocate long before it became stylish, praised the sort of Canadian innovation that’s on display at the eco-friendly Whistler Olympic village in B.C. for the 2010 Winter Games.
“Water harvesting, recycling, efficient and renewable energy usage and even solar powered garbage cans,” he said.
“These and other measures are, if I may say so, of the greatest possible importance.”
And then Charles commented on an issue that has been at the centre of domestic debate.
“The leadership and innovation they represent is going to be needed on a huge scale to protect our planet for our children and grandchildren.”
The Harper government has been derided by critics at home and internationally for a climate change plan that has been blasted as too little, too late.
Harper most recently drew the ire of environmental activists when he skipped out in September on a United Nations meeting of 100 world leaders who gathered to talk about climate change.
The welcome for Charles and Camilla had all the pageantry and pomp befitting a royal visit – even if most Canadians think the throne should skip a generation.
A Canadian Press/Harris-Decima poll, released Monday, asked 1,000 Canadians about their thoughts on the Royal Family.
Forty-one per cent said they would rather see Prince Charles pass off the throne to his son, Prince William, rather than succeed Queen Elizabeth himself, while 31 per cent believed Charles should be King.
But Charles spoke of Canadians in glowing terms.
He recalled the Queen Mother’s affection for “dear Canada,” as she called it, a country that through history has punched above its weight in conflicts ranging from the First World War to Afghanistan, he said.
Charles said he was “deeply touched” by the warmth of Monday’s reception as he and Camilla start their first tour together in the country, adding that he was eager to meet Canadians.
“I cannot tell you how delighted I am to have this opportunity to pay, I can hardly believe, my 15th visit to these shores, and that is by any measure something rather special,” he told the rapt but not exactly capacity crowd at Mile One Centre.
“More special still … is the opportunity to introduce my wife to Canada for her first-ever visit.”
Charles also recognized the Canadian military for “serving with the greatest possible distinction in Afghanistan.”
“In all cases, Canadians are bringing the light of freedom and justice to the darker corners of the world,” he said.
“I need hardly say, therefore, how much my heart goes out to the family of Pte. Steven Marshall, who was killed in action only last week and who will make his final journey home to Canada tomorrow, taking his place among those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Harper said many people are anticipating a chance to see the couple.
“Given our long attachment to the royal family, these visits have always been regarded as homecomings by many Canadians,” Harper said.
“Our home is your home.”
Williams said it was fitting that the couple would launch the trip in his province, a place celebrated for its vibrant people and thriving cultural scene.
“Given your great love of the arts, I can think of no better place for your Royal Highnesses to begin your Canadian journey.”
Charles and Camilla arrived earlier in the day at the St. John’s International Airport in clear, cold weather and under a full moon rising.
They came down the stairs of an Airbus jet separately, with Charles leading the way, and were greeted by national and provincial politicians as Camilla leaned down to receive a bouquet of flowers from a little girl.
A 21-gun salute from atop Signal Hill also marked the royal visit’s official beginning.
The couple will be in the province until Wednesday before heading to Toronto and Hamilton, Ont., where Camilla will have a chance to explore her Canadian roots.
Her great, great, great maternal grandfather was Sir Alan Napier MacNab of Hamilton, Ont., the premier of Upper Canada from 1854 to 1856. MacNab’s wife was a descendant of 17th century French immigrants to Quebec.
They will wrap their tour Nov. 12 in Ottawa.
Kevin MacLeod, a federal spokesman for the royal visit, told reporters Monday that growing concerns about swine flu have inspired “no deviation from normal procedures.”
“There will be a lot of handshaking.”
That said, Charles and Camilla will not be offended if well-wishers don’t extend their hands on this trip, he said.
Charles was last in Canada in 2001 when he spent six days touring Ontario, Saskatchewan and the Yukon.
Itinerary for the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall on tour of Canada
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall began an 11-day royal tour of Canada on Monday. Here’s the itinerary for the rest of their trip:
Newfoundland and Labrador:
Nov. 3 – Morning visit to Cupids, N.L., to celebrate its 400th anniversary in 2010; afternoon visit to Brigus, N.L., including the home of Arctic explorer Capt. Bob Bartlett; opening of new housing project in St. John’s; late afternoon visit to Marine Institute at Memorial University; evening reception hosted by Williams at The Rooms (Provincial Archives, Art Gallery and Museum).
Nov. 4 – Morning tree planting at Government House in St. John’s, N.L., with Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie; wreath-laying at National War Memorial; meeting with volunteers at the Association for New Canadians.
Nov. 4 – Afternoon arrival at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport and meeting with Premier Dalton McGuinty; Prince Charles meets members of Canadian Business for Social Responsibility; Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visits the Royal Conservatory of Music at the University of Toronto.
Nov. 5 – Morning visit to Dundern Castle in Hamilton, Ont.; visit to national historic site HMCS Haida; tour of Niagara College Teaching Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.; presentation of new colours to the Royal Regiment of Canada and the Toronto Scottish Regiment at Varsity Stadium in Toronto.
Nov. 6 – Morning opening and tour of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto; Prince Charles visits the Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto.
Nov. 6 – Afternoon arrival at Victoria International Airport; greetings by Premier Gordon Campbell at the legislature and public walkabout.
Nov. 7 – Morning tour of Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Village; Charles has afternoon meeting in Vancouver with Canadian Youth Business Foundation, visit to cancer care clinic Inspire Health and seminar on sustainable development at Simon Fraser University; Camilla visits VanDusen Botanical Garden, followed by visit to Osteoporosis Mobility Unit; evening reception in Victoria hosted by Lt.-Gov. Steven Point.
Nov. 8 – Morning church service at Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria; private program for remainder of day.
Nov. 9 – Morning inspection of Guard of Honour at CFB Esquimalt, raising of centennial banner and sailpast.
Nov. 9 – Evening arrival at Canada Reception Centre, Ottawa International Airport.
Nov. 10 – Morning meetings with Jean, Harper and Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff; afternoon arrival at Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, followed by meeting with Premier Jean Charest; visit to Cirque du Soleil; tour of Biodome; presentation of colours to the Black Watch Royal Highland Regiment, including meeting with recent Afghanistan veterans.
Nov. 11 – Morning service at the National War Memorial for Remembrance Day with Harper; afternoon visit to CFB Petawawa to meet soldiers and their families; evening reception at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
Nov. 12 – Morning tree planting at Rideau Hall; official departure from Canada Reception Centre, Ottawa International Airport.