By Steve Scherer, Allison Lampert and Julie Gordon
VANCOUVER/MONTREAL/OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined world leaders on Thursday in offering condolences to the British Royal Family on the death of Queen Elizabeth, whose death at the age of 96 marks the end of an era for many in Britain and the wider Commonwealth.
Trudeau expressed his condolences from Vancouver, where he has been at a three-day cabinet retreat. Canada announced a 10-day mourning period and lowered the flag on Canada's parliamentary buildings to half-mast.
"It is with the deepest of sorrow that we learned today of the passing of her majesty Queen Elizabeth II," Trudeau, dressed in a dark suit, said in remarks to reporters.
"She was our queen for almost half of Canada's existence. And she had an obvious deep and abiding love and affection for Canadians."
"She was one of my favourite people in the world and I will miss her so."
Queen Elizabeth died in Scotland surrounded by some of her family members, Buckingham Palace said on Thursday.
Elizabeth's eldest son Charles, 73, automatically becomes king of the United Kingdom and the head of state of 14 other realms, including Canada. His wife Camilla becomes Queen Consort.
Although Canada ceased being a colony of Britain in 1867, it remained in the British Empire until 1982, and is still a member of the Commonwealth of former empire countries that have the British monarch as head of state. A British-appointed governor-general acts on behalf of the monarch.
The queen visited Canada more than any other country during her reign - 23 times as part of Royal Tours over the course of 70 years.
James Smith Cree Nation, which witnessed one of Canada's worst ever incidents of mass violence on Sunday, resulting in the death of 10 people, received this week one of Queen Elizabeth's last letters of condolence, one of the chiefs told reporters on Thursday.
At the Clarence & Cripps British boutique and tea-room near Montreal, some customers were stunned to learn of the queen's death, while others were hugging and in tears, said co-owner Nicky Fisher, who is from England.
"Everybody was just standing around not really knowing what to do," Fisher said. "If she'd been sick for a while, we'd have been prepared. It is hard, it's the real end of an era," she added.
Monique Ledoyen came to Ottawa from North Vancouver to meet a group of friends from her college days and tour Rideau Hall, the official residence of Canada's governor general. But the tour was canceled due to the Queen's death.
Ledoyen said she met the Queen during a royal visit to Winnipeg in 1970.
"I was a Girl Guide and I was in her honor guard, and the Queen and Prince Philip and Charles and Anne walked by me," she said, adding Prince Philip spoke to her. "I was just thrilled."
Ledoyen said she was very sad, but that the group was planning on having a commemorative ice cream to celebrate the Queen's life.
Trudeau postponed a planned announcement on measures to help offset spiking consumer prices. His cabinet members changed into black.
"We offer our deepest condolences to the Royal Family on the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II," Governor-General Mary Simon said.
"Canadians across the country will mourn the loss of The Queen. Let us take a moment to honour Her Majesty's memory in each of our own ways."
While the Queen remained popular among Canadians, support for the monarchy has dropped in recent years. An opinion poll from the Angus Reid research group in April showed that 51% of Canadians thought the country's constitutional monarchy should be abolished in coming generations, up from 45% in January 2020.
"The Queen symbolized many of those nostalgic memories that people had of the past, and now it's over," said Eissa Saddozai, a 19 year old Carleton University student from Edmonton, Alberta. He had a body length Union Jack on his back and was going to pick up flowers along with a friend, who had Canada's flag on his back.
(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa, Steve Scherer in Vancouver, Julie Gordon in Ottawa and Allison Lampert in MontrealWriting by Denny ThomasEditing by Rosalba O'Brien and Alistair Bell)