Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other federal leaders praised the late Queen Elizabeth on Thursday for her commitment to service, highlighting the stability that she came to represent over her long reign.
“Many words have been used to describe the qualities that marked the legacy of Her Majesty – words like duty, service, devotion, stability,” Mr. Trudeau said in a special sitting of the House of Commons. “Throughout her reign, Canada knew extraordinary peace and prosperity.”
She was there for many of Canada’s most significant moments, he said, from cutting the Centennial cake on Parliament Hill in 1967 to signing the Constitution Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982.
“Last week, Canada lost the only sovereign that most of us have ever known,” said Mr. Trudeau. “When someone lives until 96, this should not have come as a surprise, and yet, her sudden absence has struck us all palpably and profoundly.”
After Mr. Trudeau’s remarks, Official Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre also gave a sombre speech, marking his first comments in the House since being elected to lead the Conservative Party. Leaders of the NDP and Bloc Québécois also spoke, as did a representative of the Green Party, before the House observed a moment of silence.
Members of Parliament also marked the sovereign’s passing with their own tributes. Some spoke about meeting the Queen, while others fondly recalled memories of family members who went to see her on one of her many trips to Canada. Each MP who wishes to speak is being given 10 minutes, and their tributes may extend into Friday.
Before they got under way, the House observed a moment of silence for the victims killed and injured in a mass stabbing in Saskatchewan earlier this month, most of whom were from James Smith Cree Nation.
In his remarks, Mr. Poilievre focused on the Queen’s commitment to service – and how that should inspire those who govern now.
“She was our head of state, but also a servant of the Canadian people,” he said. “For all the pomp and circumstance, the real work of governing is not glamorous. It often requires putting aside egos, keeping our heads down and keeping on with the job.”
Mr. Poilievre also said that the separation of the monarch’s symbolic authority from political power allows partisan politics to be contested fearlessly, without threatening the constitutional order.
“It is with a heavy heart, but heartfelt thanks, and with confidence in the future, that I say, Godspeed Queen Elizabeth II, God save the King, and God bless Canada,” he concluded.
Both sides of the House rose in applause, as they did after Mr. Trudeau’s remarks. It was a moment of unity that may prove rare when the House returns next week, with Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Poilievre expected to be at loggerheads over competing political visions.
In a brief address, Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet expressed his condolences to those grieving the Queen’s death, but said the “history between the Crown and the Quebec nation is both thorny and cruel.” The Bloc would withdraw its participation after the leaders’ statements and the moment of silence, he said.
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh recognized the Queen’s long commitment to service and expressed his condolences to her family. He also called on King Charles to work to repair the relationship of the Crown with the many people around the world who have suffered under colonialism.
“Loss of language and culture, violence and more are the legacies of a colonial past,” he said. “I believe the new King has an opportunity and a responsibility to do what he can to right the wrongs of the past.”
When asked by a reporter ahead of his remarks, Mr. Singh declined to specify his position on the question of abolishing the monarchy, saying that right now they are paying commemoration to Queen Elizabeth.
Mr. Singh said there “absolutely” will be a time for that discussion, but not on the day of the tributes or with the coming funeral.