Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a solemn statement Thursday shortly after Queen Elizabeth's death, saying Canadians are grateful for the monarch's decades of service to the country and the Commonwealth.
"It was with the heaviest of hearts that we learned of the passing of Canada's longest-reigning sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She was a constant presence in our lives — and her service to Canadians will forever remain an important part of our country's history," Trudeau said in a tweet.
Speaking later at a cabinet retreat in Vancouver, a tearful Trudeau said he's struggling to come to terms with the Queen's death.
"I'm having trouble believing that my last sit-down with her was my last," Trudeau said, referring to his March 2022 meeting at Windsor Castle. Trudeau was the Queen's first audience after she recovered from COVID — a sign, some palace-watchers said, of the affection the Queen had for the prime minister.
"I will so miss those chats," Trudeau said.
Trudeau, the Queen's 12th Canadian prime minister, said the monarch was "thoughtful, wise, curious, helpful, funny and so much more."
"In a complicated world, her steady grace and resolve brought comfort and strength to us all. Canada is in mourning," he added.
"She was one of my favourite people in the world and I will miss her so."
WATCH | Trudeau reacts to passing of Queen Elizabeth:
The Queen's death was announced around 1:30 p.m. ET. She was Canada's longest-serving monarch and Queen for nearly half of the country's existence, having served more than 25,000 days on the throne.
While she was head of state of many countries during her reign, the Queen had an especially close personal connection with Canada, a place she repeatedly referred to as "home" while in Canada and abroad.
She made 22 official visits to the country, visiting every province and territory.
During her last visit in 2010, the Queen told then-prime minister Stephen Harper that her mother "once said that this country felt like a home away from home for the Queen of Canada. Prime minister, I am pleased to report that it still does."
WATCH | The Queen in Canada:
When visiting Canada for Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002, the Queen said she treasured her place "in the life of Canada and my bond with Canadians everywhere."
"It is my privilege to serve you as Queen of Canada to the best of my ability, to play my part in the Canadian identity, to uphold Canadian traditions and heritage," she said.
Trudeau said Canadians will long remember that bond.
"As we look back at her life and her reign that spanned so many decades, Canadians will always remember and cherish Her Majesty's wisdom, compassion and warmth. Our thoughts are with the members of the Royal Family during this most difficult time," Trudeau said.
Governor General Mary Simon also expressed her grief and said it was a profound honour to have met the Queen when she was appointed to be her representative.
"When I was growing up, my grandmother revered The Queen, as did so many in the Arctic. She would tell us stories about Her Majesty, about her role and her commitment," she said. "Her Majesty's warm welcome when we spent time with her earlier this year was a profound moment in our lives and a memory we will cherish forever."
During a nationwide address Thursday night, Simon said the Queen cared about Canada but also the numerous people who call it home.
"She cared about Canada and all the unique stories that make up our beautiful country," Simon said.
A number of Trudeau's predecessors also issued statements to express sorrow at the end of the Queen's remarkable seven-decade reign.
Former prime minister Paul Martin said the monarch's "reign and her presence were remarkable."
"Her affection for Canada — and Canada's affection for her — was unmistakable," Martin said.
He said the Queen was a personable sovereign who was well-versed on Canadian affairs and history."Queen Elizabeth was deeply inquisitive and keenly informed. She was exceptionally good company and very witty. At our first meeting, she was kind enough to mention her friendship with my parents who had lived In London when my father served as Canada's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom during the late 1960s," Martin said.
"It is difficult to express how much that would have meant to my mother and father who were great admirers of hers,"
Former prime minister Stephen Harper said the Queen "loved Canada with all her heart and was truly one of us. Canadians returned her feelings with pride and very real affection."
Harper said that as Canada "matured and prospered throughout the decades of her reign," the Queen was a "vibrant symbol of continuity, stability and progress."
"In my personal meetings with Her Majesty, she was always warm, knowledgeable and engaging, and I shall remember those times with great affection," Harper said.
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney told CBC's Power & Politics the Queen's death is a loss not just for Canada but for the world.
"If there was a person who symbolized leadership and success and epitomized admiration around the world, it was Queen Elizabeth II," Mulroney told host Vassy Kapelos.
Mulroney said that during his personal interactions with the Queen, she always came off as a kind, genuine and modest person.
"This will be seen as the loss of a genuinely great leader and a great person," he said.
WATCH | 'There's never been anyone like her,' Mulroney says:
Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen also issued a statement Thursday, expressing the party's "deepest condolences to the Royal Family."
Bergen said that, as citizens of "a proud Commonwealth country," Canadians are experiencing "unspeakable sadness."
"Her Majesty's sense of duty to Canada was both deeply held and demonstrated in her actions. As Queen of Canada, she was not only a witness to our historical evolution as a modern, confident, and self-assured nation — she was an active participant," Bergen said.
Recalling the Queen signing the Constitution Act in 1982, Bergen said Canada started "a new era ... as a fully self-governing nation" on her watch while still maintaining "strong ties to the history that made us who we are."
"While our country has been cast into mourning, our thoughts are with her entire family, and especially to His Majesty, Charles. Long may he reign," Bergen said.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh — who has argued Canada should be a republic and that he doesn't see the "relevance" of the monarchy in the 21st century — said Thursday the Queen lived "a life of history and duty."
"She was also a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. My thoughts today are for her family who have lost a pillar of strength in their lives," Singh said in a statement.
"Like many people around the world and in Canada, my thoughts are with Queen Elizabeth II and members of the Royal Family during this difficult time."
Speaking later from Halifax, Singh said her decades-long reign represented "stability" and that her loss would be keenly felt.