Mr. Speaker, I am honoured, saddened and humbled to stand in this House to pay tribute to our monarch and sovereign Queen Elizabeth II in front of her representatives of the Commonwealth nation of Canada. It is a responsibility I do not take lightly, as it is nearly impossible to adequately convey the importance of a life that has helped shape our nation for nearly half its existence.
I would like to begin by quoting Her Majesty herself, not from a period during her reign, but from the speech the young princess delivered in Cape Town, South Africa, on her 21st birthday in 1947. She said:
I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.
But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.
Her declaration that her whole life would be devoted to service, regardless of its length, would follow her as she became the longest-serving British monarch and the second longest-serving monarch in history.
Another important quote was while touring Canada for her golden jubilee in 2002 when she said:
I treasure my 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, to recognize Canadian excellence and achievement and to seek to give a sense of continuity in these exciting, ever-changing times in which we are fortunate enough to live.
She loved this nation, its people, its traditions and its identity, as she visited Canada 22 times over the course of her 70 years as sovereign. With that in mind, I spent a significant amount of time considering the best way to pay tribute to a person who, for all accounts, will be written about for decades, if not centuries, in history books. Those stories will be told, but what may not be told to the extent that is necessary is the impact she had on people throughout the nation.
She always expressed such a joy in the Canadian identity, and I want to take some time to highlight thoughts and memories of the bonds Canadians shared with her. However, before I get to that, I want to give a nod to one of my constituents, Luc Morrissette of Alpine Flowers & Gifts in Elliot Lake, who has a memorial guest book on display, which will be forwarded to the palace to commemorate the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.
I would like to begin the memories and thoughts shared with that of Douglas Elliott's Facebook post. He wrote, “The death of Queen Elizabeth II marks the end of an era for Canada, and in many ways, for our world.
“She was the last world leader who was a veteran of World War II. Like most Canadians, I cannot remember a time before she became our Queen.
“I never had the pleasure of meeting Her Majesty, who was renowned for her dry wit and personal charm. However, I did see her in person twice.
“The first time was in July of 1959, when I was not quite 3 years old. The Queen came to Canada to open the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the new Royal Yacht Britannia toured the Great Lakes. One of the stops was in Parry Sound, and my mother took me to see Her Majesty. I am told that when my mother pointed out that the pretty young woman waving to the crowd was the Queen, I proudly responded ‘I know!’
“I don't really remember that sighting, but I do remember the second. It was in 1984 at Queen's Park. Coincidentally, the Toronto Star's published image of the walkabout captured myself and my Great Aunt Grace beaming at our Queen with joy. I was struck first by how tiny she was, with an erect military posture, a good figure and an impeccable complexion. Not a hair was out of place. She was like a perfect little porcelain doll, and beautifully dressed.
“I will remember Her Majesty best for her role in presiding over the patriation of our Constitution and the creation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. The Queen had a good sense of humour and she was known to take delight when things went slightly awry on official occasions. Jean Chrétien (who was the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs at the time) acknowledged that Her Majesty spoke excellent French, and she often conversed with him in French. I personally confirmed this royal story with him.”
Douglas' post was accompanied by a photo, and he explained, “The photo was taken on that blustery day on Parliament Hill in April of 1982 at the official signing ceremony for the new Constitution. Chrétien looks grim, while the Queen is grinning. Apparently, his pen malfunctioned, and as he reached for another he muttered ‘merde!’ The Queen heard him and chuckled.”
Douglas then writes, “Rest in peace, good and loyal servant, and may flights of angels sing you to your rest.”
Douglas received the following responses.
Ralph Carl Wushke wrote, “I must be a more loyal subject as I saw her at least six times, including when she stepped out on the caboose of the Royal Train in Broadview, Saskatchewan to greet the Chiefs of three First Nations: Cowessess, Ochapowace, Kahkewistahaw, all in Treaty 2 territory and the farmer settler families. I was 5 and it's the most vivid pre-school memory I have to this day. She was wearing powder blue. It was high summer.”
Shelley Heinrich wrote, “In 2010, she came to Waterloo. My husband was part of her security detail. I was on a day off and as he was doing the escort. He let me know when they would be passing by our little town on the highway that cuts thru. My husband sent me a single text which read: ‘The Eagle has left the Nest’. His way of letting me know when to get Hailey to the intersection where we saw her. Neither one of us wanted to compromise her safety on her route.
“We were both very fortunate to have been a part of her visit. I walked Hailey down. She was 2 at the time. Hailey waved like crazy at the Queen and the Duke as they drove by. Both waved at her and the Queen waved at Hailey exactly how Hailey waved at her. Open hand, fingers out and a little twist at the wrist with that broad smile. The Duke raised his hand and with a smile gave a little wave. We were the only two standing there. They didn't have to, but they did. Hailey just shrieked with delight!”
Debra Pain Mallon wrote, “My uncle was the Reeve of Muskoka and my cousin had the honour of presenting flowers to the Queen. Such a gracious lady. She is with Philip now. She will be deeply missed.”
Janet Babcock wrote, “My then spouse and I were invited guests to the signing of the Constitution as he was an assistant to a Cabinet Minister. It was not only blustery but near the end of the signing it began to rain heavily. We were sitting behind Andy Haydon, then Regional Chair of the Region of Ottawa Carleton. He was bald and the rain poured off his head onto my rather stylish clothes and hat as we were all trying to imitate Princess Diana. We got a signed copy of the program with signatures from Trudeau, Chrétien and Paul Martin. It is in a box somewhere in my basement. An historic day no doubt!”
The AFN national chief, RoseAnne Archibald issued the following statement on the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II:
Like many, Queen Elizabeth II is the only British monarch I have ever known in my lifetime. Throughout her reign, she has been an influential role model for generations of women and will be remembered for normalising and evolving the perception of strong, female leadership. My condolences are with King Charles III and all members of the British royal family as they grieve the loss of their matriarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
I also want to share the thoughts from Kate Matuszewski. She posted, “What a sad day in history we are all sharing in today. My heart is heavy.
“Your Majesty, Ma'am, thank you for your lifelong dedication to duty and service to our Great Britain and the Commonwealth. Throughout your reign you have led by example with strength and dignity. You have lifted us up when times were hard and given us hope; you have walked among us, your subjects, and shown us compassion, loyalty, dedication, grace, intelligence, warmth, humour, and love.
“You have endeared yourself to all of us and been a shining example. For many of us, you have been our only Queen in our lifetimes! Today I mourn your passing and wish you God speed to your beloved Prince Philip, and the peace you richly deserve. God bless you, Ma'am, you have made an indelible mark on the world and in history. What a long and glorious life you have lived. I am so proud to be British and to have been raised in such a great country with its magnificent history, values and traditions. Thank you for your service. Rest in Peace.”
In response, Kimberly MacVoy Arnold wrote, “So deeply saddened by this news. I've long admired Her Royal Majesty. May she rest peacefully and may her family find comfort and strength in the coming days of the long goodbye she most graciously earned and deserves.”
Gladys Wiggins wrote, “I saw her in Kapuskasing, Ontario, as a young child. It was just before her coronation. Back then I knew this was a special event and that she was a special lady. Rest in Peace, Queen Elizabeth.”
Erika MacLellan wrote, “I remember seeing her as a small child when she came to visit my hometown. My mother took me and my playmate, all dressed in our Sunday best, waving our flags as the Queen and Prince Philip drove slowly by, standing in their black open convertible waving and smiling to the crowds. I still can see it and remembering as if it was yesterday. My mom then took us for a treat.”
Reverend Valerie Isaac's Facebook post reads, “Rest well, Your Majesty. You promised to serve for your life, however long or short. It has been an Elizabethan era that has concluded. Our sympathies to King Charles III, and the rest of the Royal Family.”
I hope that by sharing these stories and these insights, we may get a better sense of how Canadians are grieving the loss of their monarch and, by extension, the impact that she has had on the lives of people of this country.
May Her Majesty rest in peace.