Prince Charles acknowledges Canada Indigenous suffering

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Prince Charles has acknowledged the suffering of Canada's Indigenous peoples during an official visit on behalf of the queen, earning praise Friday from Indigenous leaders.

But they would also like an official apology from the Crown.

The heir to the throne raised the historical abuses suffered by Indigenous peoples at residential schools across Canada, and its lingering impacts, on the last leg of a three-day Canadian tour with his wife Camilla.

He told a crowd in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories Thursday evening before departing for the United Kingdom that his discussions with former students and their families in recent days had been "deeply moving."

"On behalf of my wife and myself, I want to acknowledge their suffering and to say how much our hearts go out to them and their families," he said.

"We must listen to the truth of the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples. We must work to understand their pain and suffering."

In a statement, Metis National Council president Cassidy Caron said "it meant a great deal that Prince Charles and his family wanted to listen and learn, to hear Indigenous peoples' truths in the ways that we remember them."

"It's an important step forward," she said.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald also told reporters in Ottawa this week that she'd found the prince to be "very empathetic" and keen to learn about this dark chapter in Canada's history.

But she added that she still hoped for an apology "not only on behalf of the Anglican Church for what happened in those institutions, but also for the failures of the relationship between the Crown and First Nations people."

Ottawa has apologized for this suffering. So, too, did Pope Francis to an Indigenous delegation last month for the Catholic Church's role in the schools scandal, and is to repeat it during a visit to Canada in July.

After stops in Saint Johns, Newfoundland and the capital Ottawa, the royals concluded their tour Thursday in Canada's far north where they visited the Dene First Nation community.

Charles had previously commented on the need to "find new ways to come to terms with the darker and more difficult aspects of the past. Acknowledging, reconciling and striving to do better, it is a process that starts with listening."

Thousands of Indigenous children are believed to have died of neglect and malnutrition at the former state schools run by churches, and the discovery over the past year of at least 1,300 unmarked graves at these sites has prompted widespread soul-searching.

A truth and reconciliation commission concluded in 2015 that the failed government policy of forced assimilation amounted to "cultural genocide."