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Prince Charles, right, and his wife Camilla are greeted in Charlottetown, P.E.I. on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. (Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Prince Charles, right, and his wife Camilla are greeted in Charlottetown, P.E.I. on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. (Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Prince Charles urges Canada’s youth to volunteer during PEI visit Add to ...

The crowds on Prince Edward Island were small for Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, on Tuesday, but his message was big – a warning that “nature’s life support systems” are under threat.

The dangers of climate change, overfishing, deforestation and the widening gap between rich and poor were among some of the issues he noted, saying they are becoming even more of a focus for him now because he is a grandfather to Prince George.

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“It is all our grandchildren who will have to live with the very serious consequences of us believing today that we can simply carry on with ‘business as usual’ as if nothing has changed,” he added.

The Prince, whose voice is hoarse as he struggles with a cold, spoke to a group of islanders at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, where he received the Symons Medal for his contributions to Canada. It was presented by Professor Thomas Symons, for whom the medal is named, the founding president of Trent University and an expert in Canadian studies.

The Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall were on PEI for the second full day of their four-day tour. The couple arrived Monday night, traveling from Nova Scotia, and watched fireworks and a concert, which included a performance by “Queen Elizabeth” impersonator Wade Lynch, who describes himself as a “middle-aged man in a dress.”

The Charlottetown Guardian asked islanders what they thought – and some reported they felt it was “tasteless” and “shameful.” The royal couple, according to the Guardian report, were not amused by the performance, during which Mr. Lynch said: “There are two members of our audience that call me by quite another name and that is of course ‘Mommie.’ Hello kids. Surprise.”

Tuesday was overcast and it rained off and on during the day. The crowds were sparse at some events, much smaller than in Nova Scotia on the Victoria Day holiday.

In his speech, the Prince challenged Canadian youth to volunteer, saying that volunteering boosts self-esteem and self-confidence. He noted that he is not someone who likes to sit back and ignore problems.

“I like to try and find ways to solve them. That is why it is so important we all see how critical the connections are between these challenges and our future well-being,” he said.

His interest, meanwhile, in organic agriculture, youth, the military and the environment is well known, and many of the events in PEI highlighted those areas.

The royal couple visited the Cornwall United Church, a quaint, freshly painted white building, in a community that bears the name of the Duke and Duchess. There, they spoke to Second World War veterans and listened to music. In contrast, the couple had earlier in the day watched a youth parliament debate the future of Canada and their role in it.

His last event in PEI was a long walk – in his business suit and brogues – along a new wilderness trail in Bonshaw Provincial Park, which is to become the island’s largest provincial park.

He clearly enjoyed it, engaging the media as he stopped to watch a fly fisherman fish from his canoe and some kayakers paddle by.

“I thought this was a submachine gun,” he joked when he was presented with a fly rod and reel. However, he peppered the fisherman with questions about what kind of fish he caught and where the best fishing could be found. The park’s new trail system is named after the royal couple.

The Prince and the Duchess are in Manitoba on Wednesday – and return to the U.K. later that evening.

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