Should the NWT refuse to host future royal visits?


Last month’s five-hour visit of Prince Charles and Camilla to the NWT is expected to cost the territory around $180,000, the territory’s premier says.

Asked by Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson last week, Premier Caroline Cochrane said the full cost was not yet known but she expected it to be similar to the sum spent on the last royal visit.

“I would rather spend $180,000 on almost anything else,” Johnson declared, suggesting that the territory decline to host future visits by the royal family.

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“Maybe we could save some money there,” he said.

Premier Cochrane, however, mounted a spirited defence of the visits.

She said incoming royals brought global attention to the territory and, given Charles’ preoccupation with climate change, in this instance shone a spotlight on the NWT’s own fight to adapt to a shifting climate.

Moreover, the premier said, Indigenous governments seemed to want the royals to come.

“The royal family has a really special relationship with Indigenous people in the NWT,” Cochrane told the legislature, “and if we talk about reconciliation and the United Nations declaration [on the rights of Indigenous peoples], then we have to respect that relationship as well.

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“A part of reconciliation is being able to have the royal family come and listen to the Indigenous governments, and to the people, and to hear their concerns as well.”

Cochrane said no Indigenous government had expressed opposition to the royal visit.

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“In fact, they were all eager to speak to him and share their problems, and share what they thought reconciliation was and some of the experiences they had,” she said.

Even so, multiple MLAs continue to press for the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre – named for Charles on its opening in 1979, which he attended – to be given a new name.

Kevin O’Reilly, the MLA for Frame Lake, last week said the “only obstacle to renaming the museum is political inertia” after officials confirmed royal approval for a name change was not required.

O’Reilly said renaming the museum was “a concrete step our government can easily take toward reconciliation.”

Culture minister RJ Simpson, responding, said he was “confident we will see a name change in the member’s lifetime,” adding, to the laughter of other MLAs, that he wished O’Reilly “a very long life.”

Simpson said a new name is set to be tied in to a future retrofit of the museum and “perhaps a new governance model.”

“Instead of just slapping a new name on an old building, we want to package it all together so there’s a sense of renewal associated with it, so we’re not just doing it for the sake of doing it,” the minister said.