Prince Charles in Canada as relevancy questioned

ST JOHN’S, Newfoundland (Reuters) - Prince Charles arrived in Canada on Monday for a 11-day cross-country visit that comes at a time when many Canadians say the royal family is no longer relevant to them.

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Polls published in advance of the visit show support for Canada’s constitutional monarchy is weak, even if the public’s frosty opinion of the Prince of Wales himself has begun to warm just a bit.

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, landed in St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, for the their first visit to Canada since getting married in 2005. The trip will also include stops in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.

The prince told a welcoming ceremony in the East Coast city that the visit was a chance to introduce his wife to Canada on her first trip to the country. He also said he wanted to use the visit to highlight environmental ideas, such as the green technology to be used at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

A recent survey done for supporters of the monarchy, obtained by Canadian Broadcasting Corp, found 60 percent of Canadians felt the constitutional monarchy was outdated, although 80 percent said it was an important part of Canadian history.

Another survey for the Canwest News Service by Ipsos Reid found 49 percent of Canadians believe the country should scrap the monarchy and replace it with an elected head of state.

Queen Elizabeth is Canada’s head of state, and the surveys show she remains personally popular with Canadians. But an Angus Reid survey found 37 percent of Canadians felt that Canada’s monarchy should end when she dies.

The Edmonton Journal said in an editorial that the poll findings were not a surprise since in recent years the “the royal family has been more a source of entertainment than an institution inspiring awe or respect among Canadians.”

A bright spot for Prince Charles in the Ipsos Reid survey was that 57 percent of Canadians felt he should become king rather than pass the crown to his son Prince William. That was up from 51 percent in 2005 when he and Camilla married.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the St. John’s ceremony that Canada’s association with the monarchy was a “defining symbol of our unique Canadian identity.”

This is Prince Charles’s 15th visit to Canada, but his first since 2001. Queen Elizabeth is expected to visit the country next year.