Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Queen Elizabeth brought “comfort and strength” to her role as monarch and will be missed by Canadians for her “deep and abiding love and affection” for this country.
“She was one of my favourite people in the world and I will miss her so,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters after cutting short a cabinet meeting in Vancouver. “She served us with strength and courage for 70 years.”
Mr. Trudeau first met the Queen as a young boy, when his father, Pierre Trudeau, was prime minister. He spoke fondly of her love for Canada, which she visited 22 times, and for the wise counsel she offered him after he was elected Prime Minister in 2015.
“She was a thoughtful, wise, curious and funny person and she gave me a great deal of wonderful advice,” he said. “In a complicated world, her steady presence, her grace and strength brought comfort and strength to us all.”
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Mary Simon, Canada’s first Inuit Governor-General, delivered a nation-wide address on Thursday evening on the death of the Queen. She offered the nation’s condolences to the Royal Family.
“Her Majesty celebrated our achievements, reassured us in difficult times and inspired us with her steadfast dedication to service,” the Governor-General said. “She learned our stories as she visited every corner of Canada during her many royal tours. She called Canada her ‘second home.’”
The Vice-Regal added before she signed a book of condolences: “Until her final days, she remained engaged and committed to her country, to the Commonwealth and to her family. With her passing, we mourn the end of an era.”
Interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen said Canadians mourn the “longest-reigning monarch” who witnessed Canada’s growth into a vibrant and self-assured nation, which included putting her signature to the 1982 Constitution Act that brought in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“This profound moment clearly defined the beginning of a new era for Canada as a fully self-governing nation, while maintaining strong ties to the history that made us who we are,” she said. “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.”
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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who was taking part in a caucus meeting in Halifax, issued a brief statement to reporters to express sadness at the passing of the Queen on behalf of his party.
“For many Canadians, Elizabeth represents the only monarch they’ve known in their entire lives. She served over 70 years as monarch and lived a life of service,” he said. “She also represents stability, and the loss is going to be felt.”
The Queen’s reign encompassed the mandates of 12 Canadian prime ministers and 13 governors-general.
Former prime minister Jean Chrétien knew the Queen longer than any political leader. He first met her at Canada’s centennial in 1967, when he was a backbench MP and a year before he joined Pierre Trudeau’s new government as a cabinet minister. She always spoke to him in fluent French, and he said she enjoyed his sense of humour.
“When you talk about any problem in politics, she was always well briefed and she was extremely nice and attentive,” he said in an interview. “I had many occasions when I had her laughing.”
Mr. Chrétien recounted the signing of the 1982 Constitution in Ottawa, when the tip of the pen broke after Mr. Trudeau signed the document and he passed it to Mr. Chrétien. As the Queen looked on, Mr. Chrétien swore in French.
“I tried to sign it and it was not working and I said ‘merde’ and the Queen looked to the right and to the left and she was laughing. Everybody was asking what I said that had the Queen laughing. As she was bilingual, she understood,” he said.
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Former prime minister Brian Mulroney said he had a “long and very friendly” relationship with the Queen spanning his nine years in office and many social gatherings after he left in 1993.
“She was extremely intelligent, very knowledgeable, very subtle in her approach and devoted to concrete results,” he said in an interview on Thursday.
Mr. Mulroney said the Queen offered him “unfailing encouragement” when he spearheaded economic sanctions against South Africa’s apartheid regime in the face of strong opposition from Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
He paid particular tribute to her for privately backing him in the 1980s as he pushed Commonwealth and G7 countries to isolate South Africa and tighten economic sanctions against the white minority regime.
Mr. Mulroney attributed Canada’s success in leading efforts to abolish apartheid to the Queen’s “unfailing encouragement and gentle but unerring guidance.”
As prime minister, he strongly supported Black leaders such as president Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe at meetings of the 54-nation Commonwealth in their efforts to impose sanctions on South Africa.
Along with Australia’s Bob Hawke and Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, Mr. Mulroney took on Mrs. Thatcher, the strong-willed British prime minister who opposed concrete sanctions. Mr. Reagan backed Mrs. Thatcher, even though the United States was not a member of the Commonwealth.
During private discussions with the Queen, Mr. Mulroney said, she encouraged his efforts to impose tough economic, political and social sanctions on South Africa.
“In my judgment that was her highest achievement. She kept the Commonwealth together in the most challenging moment in its history, namely the challenge to free Nelson Mandela and crush the apartheid regime in South Africa,” he said.
At one private meeting in 1985 in Nassau at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Mr. Mulroney said, the Queen personally asked him “to work with other leaders to prevent a major and, some thought, imminent split within the group.”
Sanctions imposed on South Africa over the objections of Mrs. Thatcher eventually led to the end of apartheid and freedom for Mr. Mandela in 1990 after almost three decades in prison.
Mr. Mulroney also recounted private moments with the Queen, including when she came to lunch at 24 Sussex Dr. after a heavy morning of official activities in Ottawa.
“Mila and I had lunch with her upstairs in the Freedom Room overlooking the Ottawa River. She kicked off her shoes and spent at least three hours with us, just chatting about times gone by and her family,” he said. “It was just a brilliant, delightful time with her.”
Mr. Mulroney said he was also struck by the “sparkle of joy and interest” the Queen exhibited during their many conversations. “Even at 96 years of age, and after more than 70 years on the throne, this sparkle had not diminished.”
Stephen Harper said Queen Elizabeth “loved Canada with all her heart and was truly one of us,” and he spoke about how warm and engaging she was with him in personal discussions during his time as prime minister.
“Working to her last days, she served selflessly as a living reminder of the proud history each Canadian has inherited,” he said.
Now it is time, Mr. Harper said, to look to a new era of King Charles.
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Paul Martin, who was prime minister from 2003 to 2006, echoed the view that the Queen was “deeply inquisitive and keenly informed,” while noting she was “very good company and very witty.”
The Prime Minister and Governor-General will travel to Queen Elizabeth’s funeral at Westminster Abbey. In Canada, there will be a commemorative ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa, attended by members of the Supreme Court of Canada, cabinet ministers, MPs and diplomats.
It is unclear whether Mr. Trudeau will declare a national day of mourning when the funeral takes place, a tradition that dates back to 1931.
In the coming days, Mr. Trudeau and the Vice-Regal will proclaim Charles King of the United Kingdom and Canada and other Commonwealth countries. The public reading of the notice will be followed by a 21-gun salute.
During the mourning for the Queen, flags will remain lowered to half-mast on federal government buildings, and Heritage Canada has launched a commemorative website and book of condolences.
Rideau Hall and the Parliament Buildings will also have books of condolences available for signing.
House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota said MPs will not need to renew their oath of allegiance because it is automatically extended to the new King. Nor does the passing of the Queen cause Parliament to be prorogued or dissolved.
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