Canadians pay homage to Queen Elizabeth with ceremonies across the country

·5 min read

OTTAWA — Canadians gathered in multiple cities to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II Monday, in local services and events following her state funeral in London earlier in the day.

In Ottawa, a national tribute service at Christ Church Cathedral included prayers and memories of her many trips to Canada.

Algonquin spiritual adviser and poet Albert Dumont ushered Queen Elizabeth II into the arms of her husband, Prince Philip, who died 17 months earlier.

"In the land of the red Maple Leaf, the sorrow of many citizens fills the skies," he said. "The tears, the prayers of her admirers take flight, like the geese of spring and autumn, making their way to the Queen Mother, who waits to hold her daughter close to her bosom once again."

The service followed a short military parade through downtown Ottawa that saw RCMP officers on horseback and members of the Canadian Armed Forces march past the National War Memorial and Parliament Hill.

In London earlier, several Mounties on horseback led the funeral procession, a tribute to her enduring affection for Canada's national police force.

Inside Christ Church Cathedral, a who's who of Ottawa's political elite gathered to remember the queen, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and most of the Liberal cabinet, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

Former governor general Adrienne Clarkson remembered a funny moment from her final conversation with the queen at her Sandringham estate, in which Queen Elizabeth suddenly said in a quiet moment after dinner, "I shall never abdicate."

"I was rather taken aback and replied, 'I wouldn't have expected that you would,'" Clarkson remembered. "And she said, 'It is not in our tradition. Although, I suppose if I became completely gaga, one would have to do something.' But she held the course to the end: focused, dutiful, calm, the essence of equanimity."

Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark, the only living prime ministers who were unable to make the trip to London for the state funeral, were both in attendance at the Ottawa service. In his speech, Mulroney remembered the former monarch with fondness.

"She was extremely intelligent," he said. "A woman of impeccable judgment. Resolute, selfless, witty — very witty — and kind."

He also pointed to the role the queen played in ending apartheid in South Africa, something Nelson Mandela called his "greatest triumph."

Mulroney said that triumph "would never have taken place in the Commonwealth had it not been for Her Majesty's discreet, brilliant, and generous guidance and unerring instinct for the victory we all sought."

Tributes and church services took place from St. John's to Victoria Monday. In Newfoundland and Labrador's capital, Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote laid a wreath in front of a portrait of the queen during a service at the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

In Winnipeg, a 96-gun salute at the Manitoba legislative building left a trail of smoke and some gathered covering their ears.

Sallie Hunt, who travelled over 200 kilometres to Winnipeg from Kenora, Ont., said the event offered her a sense of closure.

“She’s been the queen all of my life,” Hunt said.

Hunt’s mother was the same age as the queen, and she wore two of her mother’s rings to acknowledge the connection.

In Edmonton, a modest crowd in raincoats watched solemnly at a service at the Alberta legislature and Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani reflected on the queen’s fondness for Canada.

“The Commonwealth, as we all know, is an institution that she was dearly committed to,” said Lakhani. “Your Majesty, we will truly miss you."

In Toronto, bells rang at Old City Hall, continuing once a minute for 96 straight minutes.

Onlookers gathered in small numbers on surrounding sidewalks, some stopping just for a moment to pay their respects while we others stood silently for minutes.

In Charlottetown, a ceremony at St. Peter's Cathedral began with a Mi’kmaq drum tribute and song.

In Victoria, two women visiting from Ukraine as part of a Canada-Ukraine police training project joined those watching a procession from the provincial legislature to a local cathedral.

"It's my first time in Canada," said Kate, who said she could not provide her last name. "I really would like to be part of this historic moment. I think she is a great example of leadership for the whole world, especially women."

In Ottawa, a parade that began not far from the British consulate included one member carrying the queen's Canadian flag, folded and wrapped in plastic to protect it from the rain. Upon arrival at the cathedral, the flag was set on a stand at the front of the church.

Sandra Tisch and her husband Rob Semancik drove eight hours from Oldcastle, Ont., near Windsor, and got up early to watch the televised service from London before taking in the Ottawa parade.

“It’s been an emotional 10 days,” said Tisch, who brought flowers to leave at the British High Commission and planned to visit a statue of Queen Elizabeth.

“She gave her life to her country, and I think she did a lot of good."

Alexandra McLean, the descendant of a British war bride who married a Canadian soldier, said she came out to commemorate the work of the queen and what it symbolizes to those who took up arms in her service.

“We’re mourning our grandmothers as well," she said.

"We are respecting the head of state, constitutional democracy (and) the woman who served us very well, and we’re honouring the people who loved her, who saw in her service their own service and what gave them strength for that service."

McLean said that just as King Charles made overtures to the nations of the United Kingdom such as Wales, Canada needs to do more to reconcile with Indigenous nations.

“It’s a really complicated moment, and I don’t think we’ll solve some of these problems without recognizing that they’re family problems.”

Security was evident but not overt, as Ottawa municipal police officers rode on bicycles alongside the marchers in the parade. Snipers were positioned on some building roofs around the downtown area.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2022.

— With files from Keith Doucette in Halifax, Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg, Dirk Meissner in Victoria, Tyler Griffin in Toronto, and Angela Amato in Edmonton.

Mia Rabson, Laura Osman and Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press