IQALUIT, Nunavut — Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall returned to where it all began Thursday as they touched down in Iqaluit to kick off yet another royal visit — culminating this weekend with Canada 150 festivities on Parliament Hill.
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, when the Northwest Territories was marking its own centennial.
“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 honour guard that included the Canadian Rangers was on hand for greetings.
So too was a phalanx of dignitaries, including Gov. Gen. David Johnston, Nunavut Commissioner Nellie Kusugak and Premier Peter Taptuna.
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 included a stirring performance by indigenous throat singers.
“Your visit means a great deal to us,” Johnston said during the official welcoming ceremony, which included a stirring performance by indigenous throat singers.
The prince — clad in a checkered suit with a pink shirt, pocket square and flower on his lapel — said he hopes the celebration of Confederation’s 150th anniversary will encourage all Canadians to look forward with hope and inspiration.
“Each time I visit Canada, I see the strength and resilience of the people who live here,” he said. “The importance of their indigenous traditions and the vision and drive that helped shape this extraordinary nation.
“I pray that the celebration of 150 years of Confederation will encourage all Canadians not just to look back with pride, but also to look forward with hope and inspiration.”
As part of his 18th visit to Canada, the prince met with groups focused on the promotion and preservation of the Inuit language including Pirurvik — a non-government centre that bears a name meaning ”place of growth.”
He heard about the Inuit language authority, watched an Inuktitut translation of a children’s book inspired by “Old Man of Lochnagar” —a book he authored — and received a brief language lesson.
He also learned about the work of the Pirurvik Centre, which has been working to preserve Inuit language, culture and well-being since it was founded in 2003.
Tina Decouto, a 31-year-old resident of Iqaluit and student of the centre, described for the prince how her second-language program has been feeding her confidence and sense of self-identity.
“I was one of those young Inuit who had some ability, but needed to build their confidence,” she said later.
At the Nunavut Research Institute, Charles stood on a map on the floor inside a circular room, where he received a bit of a geography lesson about the Canadian Arctic from the institute’s executive director, Mary Ellen Thomas.
He also learned about sea ice research aimed at helping communities in the North adapt to unpredictable ice conditions resulting from climate change.
The duchess, who is in Canada for the fourth time, attended a separate event dedicated to women’s wellness in the North at the Qayuqtuvik Food Centre, which offers a free hot meal program to local residents.
The royals capped off their visit at a community gathering and feast hosted by the premier in Sylvia Grennell Park. Festivities took place atop a large hill where the royals could see water flowing in the background.
Dozens of community members attended the sun-drenched event, including Inuit elders, who shared bannock and tea with the royal couple before their departure for Ottawa.
On Friday, Charles and Camilla travel to 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 with the The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who toured five communities in B.C. — Victoria, Vancouver, Haida Gwaii, Bella Bella, and Kelowna —as well as two in Yukon.
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Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press