05/22/2012

Royals Visit 2012: Prince Charles and Camilla meet and greet Toronto crowds

Who gets invited to an “invitation-only” reception to meet the royals? Law students and science whizzes and accessibility activists and astronauts; Ontario Lt.-Gov. David Onley gathered an eclectic crew Tuesday at Queen’s Park.

Charles
Prince Charles greets Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, David Onley, as he and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall arrive at Queen's Park. AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Astronaut Roberta Bondar sat next to former Ontario Ombudsman Roberta Jamieson, one of several aboriginal leaders decked out in traditional dress. Pinball Clemons was caught eyeballing the Grey Cup, on display in honour of its 100th birthday.

TV anchors Peter Mansbridge, Steve Paikin and Gord Martineau were there, as was CP24 anchor Ann Rohmer, who said she was on air Monday night reporting as Prince Charles met her father Major-General Richard Rohmer and she couldn’t help but blurt out ‘That’s my Dad!’ Grade 12 student James Farry of Dunnville worried the prince had heard his knees knocking; he was a recent Youth Volunteer award winner for his advocacy of organic farming, a passion he shares with the Prince. As people stood to sing God Save The Queen, the clear, strong voice of Ruth Ann Onley rang out to set the pace; the Lt-Gov’s wife is a professional singer and Christian recording artist.

After the ceremony, visitors were clustered into 10 themed groups to make for more focussed schmoozing; the Prince first stopped at the group of six medal winners, where he also grabbed a cup of tea he then carried throughout his rounds.

The science and innovation cluster boasted two astronauts; Bondar and Dave Williams. In the aboriginal achievement and literacy circle Nishnabe-Aski Nation Chief Stan Beardy gave the Prince the book by Nipissing University Professor John Long about the signing of Treaty 9 from aboriginals’ point of view.

Law student Byron Pascoe was in the Charter group; he’s co-chair of a public awareness campaign about the Charter that has comedian Howie Mandel and band Wide Mouth Mason doing public service announcements. There was a group for sports, for monarchists, for the arts and advocates of accessibility, which is Onley’s most cherished cause.

The Prince showed little concern for his airtight schedule; at the time he was supposed to be heading to Ryerson University he was still at Queen’s Park laughing at Mansbridge’s question about how he enjoyed giving the weather report recently on BBC Scotland. Onley, a former weatherman on CITY TV, admitted he and the prince already had swapped weatherman jokes. Cellist Joelle Mauris stopped playing in order to meet the prince, and asked him whether he still plays cello; an instrument he had studied as a youth. He confessed he hadn’t had the patience.

As for the distinguished Ontarians who received the Diamond Jubilee Medals; they included award-winning history teacher Nathan Tidridge of Waterdown near Hamilton; he says the monarchy has been squeezed out of Ontario high school courses and his book - Canada’s Constitutional Monarchy - could serve as a text if schools decided to put the Crown back in the curriculum.

York university graduate Tamara Gordon won for her work promoting opportunities for young people with disabilities; Barbara Goldring is a lifelong volunteer, philanthropist and monarchist; Andrew Williams quit his corporate finance job to become the program director of the Yonge St. Mission (which the royals were to tour Tuesday afternoon); paramedic Rahul Singh is founder of the upstart disaster relief group GlobalMedic (he invited the prince to come along some time) and former RCAF pilot Lou Wise, at 97, still flies over southern Ontario and takes photographs of our disappearing green space - another pet passion of the Prince.

- Louise Brown Education Reporter

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