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Canada To Greet William, Kate With Pomp, Protests

Prince William and his wife Princess Catherine arrive in Ottawa Thursday for a nine-day Canada visit packed with pomp and ceremony but which has also awakened anti-monarchist sentiment.

The newlyweds’ first official foreign trip will be both casual and action-packed, with military ceremonies, a cooking class, aboriginal sports and a rodeo.

It will also mark a sort of initiation for the newest member of Britain’s royal family, the Duchess of Cambridge, and training for the likely heirs to the British throne.

The grandson of Queen Elizabeth II and his wife’s first day will kick off with military honors and speeches by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Governor General David Johnston and the duke himself.

Later, the royals are to attend a barbecue with 120 young Canadians at the official residence of the governor general, and cap off their visit to Ottawa celebrating Canada’s national holiday on July 1, when they will join tens of thousands outside parliament for musical performances and fireworks.

The 29-year-olds’ April 29 wedding was watched on television by two billion people around the world, and their every move in Canada will be followed by 1,300 journalists and throngs of fans.

Prince William, second in the line of succession to the British throne, already has plenty of experience carrying on royal duties. But his wife, Kate Middleton, is still a rookie in the public eye.

Organizers said the Canadian government aimed to construct a schedule that “balances” official events with fun and includes a bit of alone time for the newlyweds.

Their tour of Canada will however coincide with a grim milestone — Friday would have been the 50th birthday of Princess Diana, William’s mother, who was thronged by fans when she made her own visit to Canada in 1983.

Quebec anti-monarchists, however, have added their own event to the royal itinerary, calling for protests when the couple stops in Quebec City on Sunday.

A poll released on the eve of their visit showed one-third of Canadians wish to cut ties with the British monarchy.

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

But in Quebec — a former French colony conquered by the British in 1763 — disaffection with the royals runs as high as 60 percent, according to the Angus Reid poll.

Even anti-monarchists admit William and Kate are likable, but they say the couple are being trotted out to give the world the false impression that Quebec’s separatist movement has faded away and it now accepts being part of a Canadian federation dominated by Anglo-Saxons.

After taking a cooking class in Montreal on July 2, William and Catherine will travel aboard a navy frigate to Quebec City and meet with members of the largest regiment in the Canadian Forces, the francophone Royal 22nd Regiment.

William will also take part in coast guard rescue exercises from a Sea King helicopter, which he trained on during his military service in Britain, during a stop on Prince Edward Island.

Finally, the couple will travel to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories for aboriginal sports and traditional dancing, before heading to Calgary for the Stampede rodeo.

Just prior to this last stop in Canada, they are also expected to sneak away on a romantic getaway to a secluded (and undisclosed) location in the Rocky Mountains for a day and night.

After wrapping up their tour of Canada, the couple will travel to California for three days, July 8-10, for a visit whose highlight will be a black-tie celebrity reception for British filmmakers in Los Angeles.

Copyright © 2011 AFP

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