Quebec: a bump on the royals' cross-Canada tour

2nd July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Prince William and his bride Catherine landed Saturday in Quebec province -- the only stop in Canada where they would face protests during their first official foreign trip as newlyweds.

The former French colony was conquered by the British in 1763, but its culture and language survived and the Canadian province is now a bastion of French culture in North America.

British rule, however, still evokes resentment in some quarters.

The duke and duchess of Cambridge's visit is expected to be met by protests when they arrive in Montreal in the afternoon and move on to Quebec City on Sunday.

Their Quebec itinerary is abridged, with no royal walkabout or major public events, seemingly in a bid to reduce possible confrontations with anti-monarchists or separatists like the one that embarrassed William's father, Prince Charles, when he visited in 2009.

Upon arriving, William and Kate will take a cooking class at the Institut de tourisme et d'hotellerie du Quebec (ITHQ).

They will then travel overnight aboard a navy frigate to Quebec City, where a tour of the historic fortified quarter of the city known as the Citadel is scheduled.

The couple will also meet with members of the Royal 22nd Regiment, the most famous francophone unit in the Canadian Forces.

This last event in Quebec City is a target of the largest planned protest.

William and Catherine are very likable, protest organizer Patrick Bourgeois told AFP, but are being used by Ottawa to give the world a false impression that Quebec's separatist movement has faded away and its members now accept being part of a Canadian federation dominated by Anglo-Saxons.

The Quebec nationalist group RRQ has called for a rude welcome in Quebec City for the couple.

Bourgeois pledged, however, that the protest would be peaceful, and went as far as hiring his own security team to keep it in check.

A poll released on the eve of the duke and duchess's visit found that a third of Canadians want to cut ties with the British monarchy.

In Quebec, where 83 percent of the population speaks French and only 10 percent speak English, disaffection with the royals runs as high as 60 percent, according to the Angus Reid survey.

As a member of the Commonwealth, Canada's official head of state is the British monarch Queen Elizabeth II, who is represented by a governor general.

Quebec twice rejected independence in referendums in 1980 and 1995, the last time by a narrow margin.

Separatists would like to hold a third vote but infighting has marred their organization of late.

Prince William, second in line to the British throne, and his wife were greeted by hundreds of thousands of adoring fans in Ottawa on Thursday and Friday.

The Quebec leg of their trip, however, promises to be much different, with protestrs expected to shout: "William, clear out."

On Saturday, the couple planted a ceremonial tree at the residence of the governor general symbolizing their everlasting "love and marriage" and later attended a reception with veterans and war brides at the Canadian War Museum.

After Montreal and Quebec City, they will move on to Charlottetown for rescue trials aboard a sea helicopter, to Yellowknife for aboriginal sports and to Calgary for a rodeo.

© 2011 AFP

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