Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke fondly of the Queen after her death Thursday, saying she was one of his favourite people in the world and that she served with strength and wisdom during her 70 years on the throne.
The longest-serving British monarch, who died at age 96, had an “obvious, deep and abiding love and affection for Canadians.”
With red eyes, Trudeau forced himself to maintain composure as he gave a brief statement to reporters in Vancouver. He said that as the Queen’s 12th Canadian prime minister, he’s having trouble believing that his last meeting with her was his final one. He called her “thoughtful, wise, curious, helpful and funny,” adding that he will “miss her so.”
The monarch’s representative in Canada, Gov. Gen. Mary Simon, is expected to deliver remarks at Rideau Hall Thursday evening and sign a book of condolences.
An online book of condolences is available on the Canadian Heritage website.
Simon said in an earlier statement that the Queen was a “steadfast presence” during tumultuous recent history.
She said during the visit she and her husband, Whit Fraser, made to London for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations this summer, the Queen gave her a “warm welcome” and it was “a profound moment in our lives and a memory we will cherish forever.”
Protocol calls for 10 days of mourning following the Queen’s death. A funeral date is expected to be announced soon, which governors general and Commonwealth prime ministers are expected to attend in London.
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.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 8, 2022
The cabinet meeting in Vancouver continued Thursday afternoon as planned but an expected announcement from Trudeau on affordability was cancelled, as was a planned fundraising event in the evening.
Ministers arrived for the meeting shortly before 9 a.m., but several left moments later to change into more muted colours of clothing.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, initially wearing a bright red dress, switched into something black, while Carolyn Bennett, minister of mental health, replaced her bright red pantsuit with a dark blue version.
Trudeau was expected to announce cost-of-living relief measures for Canadians at 12:30 p.m. eastern time. Shortly before 1 p.m., Jody Thomas, the national security adviser, was seen entering a cabinet room where ministers were meeting.
The Royal Family announced the Queen’s death half an hour later. Trudeau informed his cabinet a few minutes before he issued his public statement.
A statement from the House of Commons Speaker, Anthony Rota, noted that the Queen first visited Canada in 1951 before her accession to the throne.
Since then she has “observed and shared in the development of modern-day Canada,” said Rota. He added that the current session of Parliament and the oaths taken by members are not affected by the news.
Federal Conservative leader Candice Bergen also expressed condolences in a statement Thursday afternoon.
“Many will say today that her passing marks the end of an era, but truly, Her Majesty presided over two eras in Canada’s national life,” Bergen said.
The Queen’s signing of the Constitution Act in 1982 was a “profound moment” that Bergen said “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.”
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said the Queen lived a life of history and duty. “She was also a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother,” he said. “My thoughts today are for her family, who have lost a pillar of strength in their lives.”
Ralph Goodale, Canada’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom, tweeted to say the Queen is “a profoundly important person in the most successful constitutional monarchy in world history.”
The Senate Speaker, George Furey, noted in a statement that the Queen twice delivered a Speech from the Throne in Canada. Her reign “will continue to instil and inspire the values of public service, selflessness and quiet dignity for generations to come,” he said.
Mourners left flowers on the steps of the British High Commission in downtown Ottawa, where a Canadian flag was draped over the railing on Thursday afternoon.
Suzanne Plante dropped off a bouquet, taking a moment to collect herself through tears.
“For my generation, her stability and her devotion, her service — her and her family have every problem that any other family has had to deal with it, and yet right up until two days ago, she was still working,” she said.
Elsewhere in the city, flags were lowered to half mast, including at Ottawa City Hall and at the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.
After the Queen’s 70 years on the throne, a transition of power is unfamiliar territory for the current Canadian government.
Experts say governance is expected to carry on as usual because the monarch remains the constitutional head of state in Canada no matter who is filling the role.
Succession from the Queen to her eldest son, now known as King Charles III, is automatic. There will be some formalities, including a proclamation from the Governor General.
“A lot of that remains unclear on how we’re going to exactly follow it in Canada,” says Philippe Lagassé, an associate professor of international affairs at Carleton University and an expert on the role of the Crown in the Westminster system of government.
He said the prime minister could formally announce the Queen’s passing in Parliament and mark a holiday for her funeral. The ceremonial details are “wait-and-see,” he said.
As after the passing of the Queen’s spouse Prince Philip last year, books of condolences will be made available to the public in person and online.
There will otherwise be no disruption to any governing bodies that sit in the Queen’s name, or to legislation, oaths and other legal documents issued in her name.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 8, 2022.