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Royal visits to Canada may be out of the question right now, but Prince Edward took to Zoom the other day to check in virtually with Canadian Armed Forces reserve regiments that have him as their colonel-in-chief.
For about an hour, Edward shared the screen with commanding officers from the Prince Edward Island Regiment, the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment in eastern Ontario and the Saskatchewan Dragoons, along with two reserve units in the United Kingdom.
Officers told Edward how their regiments turned to online training after the pandemic struck, how they worked to support the mental health of their members and how they prepared to help as needed in their communities.
Maj. Mack Driscoll of the Saskatchewan Dragoons welcomed the chance to speak online with Edward, who last visited the regiment in person in 2016.
“I think that what I really appreciated about it is [how] the adoption of virtual visits across the board this year has certainly made people more accessible than … they were in the past,” Driscoll said in an interview.
Edward was “really interested” in how the last year has affected the regiments when it comes to training in a virtual environment, and the tasks they have taken on in support of government pandemic response efforts, Driscoll said.
“Also, we had quite a discussion on just the mental resiliency of soldiers and how we all worked to support our unit members during a really challenging time.”
Members of the Royal Family have taken to virtual visits in a major way throughout the pandemic, opening facilities, speaking with numerous front-line workers and, in the case of Queen Elizabeth, even attending online for the unveiling of a portrait of herself.
Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, spoke online with health-care workers at a B.C. hospital to mark Canada Day last year.
Lt.-Col. Glenn Moriarity, commanding officer of the Prince Edward Island Regiment, said it was a “real honour and a privilege” to have the opportunity to speak with Edward.
Moriarity outlined how in the early days of the pandemic they shifted to training from home — and returned later to in-person sessions — along with offering his perspective on morale, which is “quite high” right now among members of the regiment.
“It was a very relaxed conversation [with Edward],” Moriarity said in an interview. “It was very natural.”
Members of the Royal Family serve as colonel-in-chief of numerous military units across Canada.
Edward “is always … very well read in to the situation both with our regiment and just the overall situation in the military in general,” said Driscoll.
“I think what we all took away from the conversation was just how similar our experiences are, both amongst the Canadian regiments and the regiments in the U.K…. He was certainly very interested in that, especially the well-being of the units and the members.”
Doing a virtual visit raises the possibility of similar online contact in the future, although Edward also told the officers he hoped that as soon as travel would allow, he would be able to visit in person.
The hour-long session was not without a lighter moment or two.
Driscoll’s sergeant major, Master Warrant Officer Rob Tryhorn, was also on the Zoom call. But reservists are part-time soldiers, so his participation came while he was at work. And in his case, work is driving a truck.
“He had to join the call from a truck stop in Montana,” said Driscoll.
“So I think that was really something that His Royal Highness got a kick out of … as [Tryhorn] is kind of huddled at a table wearing a mask and I’m sure everyone in the truck stop is wondering exactly what is going on, and here he is talking to Prince Edward.”
William and Kate make their own mark
After the explosive Oprah Winfrey interview with Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, laid bare their view on their departure from the upper echelons of the Royal Family, many looked to the House of Windsor for a response.
The interview raised numerous serious issues and allegations around race, mental health and support within the family itself.
Buckingham Palace responded with a short statement two days later, and Harry’s brother, Prince William, in response to a question from a reporter, said the Royal Family is “very much not a racist family.”
Beyond that, however, there has been no official comment. But William’s reaction, along with how other members of the family are carrying on with their duties, may offer some insight into their position.
“Many millions of people watched Oprah and millions will have believed everything Harry and Meghan said,” royal author and biographer Penny Junor said via email this week.
“I think William will have been furious with his brother and sister-in-law, and his remark to the reporter’s question about whether the family was racist was an admirably measured response.
“It was important for someone to say something, but I think he and the rest of the family know that the best way to counter all the claims and accusations is to keep on trucking, to continue the work, to be visible and to behave with dignity.”
Kate also made a low-key appearance at a vigil in honour of a London woman who was slain while walking home alone from a friend’s house.
“The contrast, for instance, between Kate quietly joining the Sarah Everard vigil and Meghan appearing on Oprah spoke volumes,” Junor said.
William and Kate also posted online cards their children had made for Mother’s Day, with one mentioning that William missed his mother, “Granny Diana.”
As touching as the cards are, in that action of social sharing from royal parents who have been vigorous in protecting their children’s privacy, it was hard not to see at least a bit of public positioning.
“I think this was a gentle way of reminding people that William was Diana’s son, too — and that Harry was not the only one who lost his mother,” said Junor.
William and Kate have continued with royal engagements, some related to the pandemic, including an appearance at Westminster Abbey, where they met people there to receive their COVID-19 vaccine.
The public spotlight on William continued last weekend when he was the focus of a report in the Sunday Times magazine that spawned numerous other news reports. Many cited comments from insiders regarding how as King, William would “robustly challenge” advice from his prime ministers in private if he felt it would damage the monarchy.
Junor said she’s sure William’s friends quoted in the article would not have spoken “without at least a nod” from him.
“I suspect there is a feeling that Harry and Meghan’s behaviour is providing a very distracting sideshow and taking the spotlight away from the important work that the rest of the family does,” Junor said.
“Harry claimed that William is trapped but can’t escape, as he did. I guess William is keen to demonstrate that that is not the way he feels about royal duty and that he accepts his destiny and, like his grandmother, will devote his life to the service of the country.”
A baby boy — on the bathroom floor
When Zara and Mike Tindall let it be known they were expecting their third child, the news was in keeping with their laid-back ways, and came from a decidedly unroyal source.
The father-to-be — a former rugby player — took to his sports podcast late last year to share the word that he and Zara, the Queen’s eldest granddaughter, were looking forward to the arrival of a brother or sister for daughters, Mia, 7, and Lena, 2.
So it was perhaps not that much of a surprise that Tindall turned to his The Good, the Bad & the Rugby podcast again this week to announce the birth of their son on Sunday.
Buckingham Palace said Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were “delighted” with the arrival of Lucas Philip Tindall, their 10th great-grandchild.
What might have been more of a surprise for the Tindalls was the way in which the baby — whose middle name honours both sides of the family — came into the world.
“Arrived very quickly. Didn’t make it to hospital. On the bathroom floor,” Tindall told his podcast listeners.
“So yeah, it was running to the gym, get a mat, get into the bathroom, get the mat on the floor, towels down, brace, brace, brace.”
“It’s fascinating to see the pictures of Mars — unbelievable, really, to think one can see its surface.”
— Queen Elizabeth, in reference to photos of the Red Planet taken by NASA’s Perseverance rover, during a virtual event to celebrate British Science Week. Elizabeth also got a lot of laughter from the scientists she was speaking with when she recalled her 1961 meeting with cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human to travel into space. When asked what he was like, Elizabeth said, “Russian,” before adding that “he was fascinating, and I suppose being the first one, it was particularly fascinating.”
- The Royal Family is considering appointing a diversity czar. Reports regarding that move come after Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey where they said an unnamed member of the family had made a racist comment about their son before he was born. The Guardian reported that the palace work regarding diversity predates the March 7 interview, but Harry and Meghan’s comments “will be taken on board as part of the process.”
- Prince Philip returned to Windsor Castle after a month-long stay in hospital. After his return, Queen Elizabeth sent flowers to the hospital where he underwent a heart procedure, in a gesture that also marked the anniversary of the first COVID-19 lockdown. [CBC, ITV]
- A private investigator employed by the British tabloid The Sun has said he illegally accessed Meghan’s private information shortly after she met Harry. [The Guardian]
- Harry said he is “really excited” about taking on the position of chief impact officer with BetterUp, a San Francisco-based mental health and coaching firm. [BBC]
- Harry has also written a foreword for a book aimed at children of front-line workers who died in the pandemic, sharing pain he felt as a boy after the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. [CBC]
- In Barbados, leaving the monarchy is just the first step on a long path to healing. [CBC]
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Trudeau nominates first judge of colour to sit on Supreme Court
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday made history by nominating the first judge of color to sit on the country’s Supreme Court, which has only ever had white justices in its 146-year existence.
Mahmud Jamal, who has been a judge on Ontario‘s court of appeal since 2019, trained as a lawyer and appeared before the Supreme Court in 35 appeals addressing a range of civil, constitutional, criminal and regulatory issues.
“He’ll be a valuable asset to the Supreme Court – and that’s why, today, I’m announcing his historic nomination to our country’s highest court,” Trudeau said on Twitter.
Trudeau has frequently said there is a need to address systemic racism in Canada.
Jamal, born in Nairobi in 1967, emigrated with his family to Britain in 1969 where he said he was “taunted and harassed because of my name, religion, or the color of my skin.”
In 1981 the family moved to Canada, where his “experiences exposed me to some of the challenges and aspirations of immigrants, religious minorities, and racialized persons,” he said in a document submitted to support his candidacy.
Canada is a multicultural country, with more than 22% of the population comprised of minorities and another 5% aboriginal, according to the latest census.
“We know people are facing systemic discrimination, unconscious bias and anti-black racism every single day,” Trudeau said last year.
Jamal will replace Justice Rosalie Abella, who is due to retire from the nine-person court on July 1.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)
Donors pledge $1.5 billion for Venezuelan migrants, humanitarian crisis
More than 30 countries and two development banks on Thursday pledged more than $1.5 billion in grants and loans to aid Venezuelan migrants fleeing a humanitarian crisis, as well as their host countries and vulnerable people still in the country.
The $954 million in grants announced at a donors’ conference hosted by Canada – which included pledges of $407 million from the United States and C$115 million Canadian dollars ($93.12 million) from Canada – exceeded the $653 million announced at a similar event last year.
But that fell short of the needs of countries hosting the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have left their country since 2015, as the once-prosperous nation’s economy collapsed into a years-long hyperinflationary recession under socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
Most have resettled in developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean who have themselves seen their budgets stretched thin due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Does this cover all needs? Of course not,” Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters. “We will have to continue to encourage donors to support the response.”
At the conference, Ecuadorean President Guillermo Lasso announced that the country – which hosts some 430,000 Venezuelans – would begin a new process to regularize migrants’ status. That came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the 1.8 million Venezuelans it hosts.
Karina Gould, Canada‘s minister for international development, said the amount pledged showed donors were eager to support such efforts.
“There is that recognition on behalf of the global community that there needs to be support to ensure that that generosity can continue, and can actually deepen, in host countries,” Gould said.
In addition, the World Bank and Inter-American Developmemt Bank pledged $600 million in loans to address the crisis, Gould said.
($1 = 1.2349 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Luc Cohen, Michelle Nichols and David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Aurora Ellis)
Ecuador to start new ‘normalization process’ for Venezuelan migrants
Ecuador will implement a new “normalization process” for the 430,000 Venezuelan migrants living in the South American country, President Guillermo Lasso said on Thursday, without providing further details of the plan.
Lasso’s announcement, at a conference hosted by Canada intended to raise money to support the more than 5.6 million Venezuelans who have fled an economic crisis in the South American country, came after Colombia in February gave 10-year protected status to the nearly 2 million Venezuelans it hosts.
“I am pleased to announce the beginning of a new regularization process, which in order to be an effective, lasting and permanent policy should be complemented by strategies for economic integration and labor market access,” Lasso said.
Ecuador in late 2019 launched a regularization process for Venezuelans who arrived before July of that year. That included two-year humanitarian visas meant to facilitate access to social services.
Lasso said Ecuador needed outside funding to continue caring for Venezuelan migrants, estimating that more than 100,000 additional migrants were expected to arrive before the end of the year.
“I call on our partners in the international community to be co-responsible and have solidarity with Venezuelan migrants and refugees, and with the countries that receive them,” he said.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen; editing by Barbara Lewis)
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