People power: Charles hails those who have 'selflessly served' communities
REGINA - Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, were kept busy on the final day of their whirlwind visit to Canada as they met more of the people the prince has described as an inspiration on this trip.
"Over the past three days, I can say from the heart that we have both been incredibly moved by the stories of the literally hundreds and hundreds of Canadians we have met who have selflessly served their communities without thought of recognition or thanks — whether it is running a breakfast club at their local school or teaching young people practical skills for future employment," Charles said Wednesday after presenting Diamond Jubilee medals at a ceremony at the Saskatchewan legislature.
"We have been inspired by the sheer energy and enthusiasm of everyone we have met – and by the quite remarkable things they have achieved."
The medals were created in honour of the Queen's 60 years on the throne and to acknowledge outstanding service to community and country. The prince also presented them on the Ontario and New Brunswick legs of the visit.
The final day of the Canadian visit of Charles and his wife was packed with more people power: everyone from politicians and dignitaries to aboriginal students and young entrepreneurs.
It concluded in the evening with a reception with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a concert by the Regina Symphony Orchestra.
The symphony's repertoire included a selection of classical pieces, some Beatles songs and the premiere of Jonathan Ward's "Canadian Medley," which was commissioned by the RSO.
Harper announced the federal government will make two charitable donations on behalf of the prince and the duchess — one to the RCMP Foundation and one to the Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur program, which helps military personnel make the transition to owning their own businesses in the private sector.
He said Canada is honoured to be hosting the pair as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, which marks the Queen's 60 years on the throne of England — an accomplishment which Harper light-heartedly put into a Canadian context.
"I note that Elizabeth II had already been queen for more than 15 years when Bobby Orr was named the NHL's rookie of the year in 1967 — when the Toronto Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup."
The prime minister also announced the prince will become honorary commissioner of the RCMP and presented him with the gift of a saddle cloth.
Prince Charles said he was "profoundly touched" by the appointment, calling it "a wonderful surprise."
"I recall, funnily enough, from a photograph album belonging to the Queen that a long time ago when I was very small, she must have been given a complete uniform for a child on a visit to Canada," he said. "There, in the photograph album, is a picture of me wearing this uniform."
The prince said he is also grateful to the RCMP for two impeccably trained RCMP horses that he has ridden at ceremonial functions over the years.
"My wife and I appreciated our visit more than I can express and we are infinitely grateful to the hundreds of Canadians that we met and who welcomed us with so much warmth and generosity," he said.
The prince and his wife then headed to the airport where the duchess quickly boarded their plane while Prince Charles, toting an umbrella, inspected troops gathered for a 21-gun military salute, pausing briefly to chat with one soldier.
Then he got on the plane, gave a quick wave goodbye, and headed for home.
Earlier in the day, the royal couple viewed native drumming and dancing during a stop at the First Nations University in Regina, and toured displays set up by the school's students, artists and entrepreneurs.
They mingled at a reception at Government House where they dedicated an herb garden and even met a royal canine.
And they were cheered by hundreds of well-wishers braving wind and rain at the legislature, where Charles presented the medals and the couple viewed artifacts from a 100-year-old time capsule.
It was much the same in Toronto on Tuesday where they were greeted with cheers and curtsies. The couple took Canada's most populous city by storm as they sampled its diverse cultural offerings, tested cutting-edge digital technology and cranked out urban beats from a DJ's turntable. The day took them from the Ontario legislature to a downtown mission for disadvantaged youth.
Crowds dogged the duchess for a word or a smile and the prince took the spotlight at a military muster to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. The royal couple later spoke privately to the families of fallen soldiers.
On Wednesday, business student Jacob Pratt played a traditional aboriginal flute for them at the First Nations University. He said he was thrilled when the prince asked him for a copy of his CD.
"It was pretty cool. I never thought Prince Charles would ask for my CD or to play for him. It was pretty neat to get that request."
In keeping with the people theme of the visit, Pratt said it was important for the royal couple to visit the aboriginal school.
"It reinforces the relationship between the monarchy and First Nations people, because there is a very long and rich history of First Nations people to the Crown. For them to still honour that relationship is a good thing to see."
At Government House, one of the 100 guests included a dog named Suzanna.
The golden lab accompanied RCMP Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown, who oversees the Mountie training academy at Regina Depot. She lives at the training centre and was a gift to the RCMP from the Queen about three years ago as a thank you for the four horses the force has presented to her.
"We talked about when she came and what she does at Depot, a little bit about her disposition," Brown said after meeting the royal pair.
The dog goes to work with Brown every day, goes with him to all official functions and is "part of the royal family."
He said he told them that Suzanna is "quiet, listens and is just a joy to have around."
Prince Charles, who has always been interested in the environment, also toured a company that has developed environmentally sustainable ways to clean up contaminated soil and water.
The royal couple, each carrying an umbrella against the wet, also took a few moments to shake hands and meet with some well-wishers outside the legislature.
Charles braved the weather without a jacket over his grey suit, but the Duchess of Cornwall was wearing a smart off-white coat over a blue Fiona Claire dress. Later, at the symphony event, she donned a dress and jacket by British designer Anna Valentine.
Renae Grubb of Regina stood outside in the wind and rain to see the royal couple. A British flag tucked into her ball cap frantically waved in the wind.
"I'm very cold," she said. "But it was worth it."
Grubb got to meet the Queen when she visited Regina in 2005 and wanted to snap some photos to commemorate this visit, too.
Charles and his wife then entered the building where they were accompanied to the chamber for the official greeting from Premier Brad Wall.
Wall joked about the bad weather and quipped about some of the things the province is known for: a long winter, lots of mosquitoes and the difficult spelling of the province's name.
He also announced the renaming of the Prince of Wales scholarship to include the Duchess of Cornwall's name.
The heir to the throne also unveiled the design for the Black Rod which, as per parliamentary tradition, accompanies a lieutenant-governor into a legislative chamber. Saskatchewan is re-establishing that tradition and Charles presented a piece of oak from the Duchy of Cornwall, his private estates, that will become part of the rod.
"It is indeed a chip off the old block!" he declared.
The prince also looked at photos from past royal visits before approaching another table where Wall asked Charles to put the Queen's Diamond Jubilee flag in a new time capsule to be opened in 100 years.
Charles and Camilla began their Canadian tour Monday in New Brunswick. One of the many events there was a stop at CFB Gagetown, where Charles flew as a naval helicopter pilot in the 1970s.
The two later travelled to Saint John, where they walked along Prince William Street, and shook hands and spoke with hundreds of people amid a constant flutter of camera shutters.