Mounted RCMP officers, an honour guard and a military band marched through the streets of Ottawa on Monday to commemorate the Queen’s death, as a national day of mourning played out under overcast skies.
Around 1,000 spectators lined the ceremonial route past the National War Memorial and Parliament Hill to a cathedral on the western edge of downtown, as a 96-gun salute marked each year of the Queen’s life.
Some 600 politicians and dignitaries from across Canada, including former prime ministers Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark, gathered for a memorial service at Christ Church Cathedral.
Mr. Mulroney spoke of the Queen’s guidance that helped to end apartheid in South Africa, her impressive command of French and respect for bilingualism, and her way of calling Canada “home.”
“She was extremely intelligent – a woman of impeccable judgment, resolute, selfless, witty and kind,” he said. “Her Majesty’s brilliant service and contributions over seven decades did so much to sustain and elevate the golden concepts of freedom, liberty and democracy that have brought such honour to Canada and all of her people.”
Before the service, a memorial procession filed into the cathedral, led by a bagpiper, with two eagle staff bearers from the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCMP. The feathered staffs are meant to honour Indigenous peoples in Canada.
The service blended religious and secular elements, including hymns and prayers, musical performances, and addresses by Mr. Mulroney and former governor-general Adrienne Clarkson, as well as a tribute from Albert Dumont, Algonquin spiritual teacher-in-residence at Christ Church Cathedral.
“In the lands of the red Maple Leaf, the sorrow of many citizens fills the skies. The tears, the prayers of her admirers take flight – like the geese of spring and autumn,” Mr. Dumont said.
In her address, Ms. Clarkson, who served as governor-general between 1999 and 2005, recalled learning of the death of the Queen’s father, King George VI, in 1952 when she was in Grade 9 and “shakily” singing God Save the Queen for the first time.
“During 70 years of this Elizabethan era, we as Canadians have been weaving a new tapestry through the solid threads of our inheritance of the Magna Carta,” she said.
The service also featured music performed by Kim Richardson, Rufus Wainwright, Ginette Reno, Tomson Highway and David Baik.
Among the ministers in attendance were Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez. The newly elected Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh were also there.
Mr. Rodriguez said the Queen was a “reassuring figure” during her reign.
“It’s very important to take the time to commemorate and reflect on her life and her love for Canada and for Canadians,” he told reporters. “We have to take the time to thank her.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, were in London to attend the Queen’s state funeral, but his mother, Margaret, son Xavier and daughter Ella-Grace attended the service in Ottawa.
Small crowds of people lined the procession route despite rainy, cool weather blanketing the national capital. Many of the spectators watched the memorial service on a big screen near the cathedral.
The parade included a military band, which played funeral marches also heard in Britain; the RCMP’s Musical Ride, mounted on black horses with the Maple Leaf shaved into their flanks; and honorary pallbearers.
The Canadian Press
Among those marching was Sergeant Karla George, an RCMP officer with 21 years service, who said she would remember the experience for the rest of her life.
“It was quite an honour,” she said. “Queen Elizabeth was a female leader of strength and endurance. To reign 70 years with a purpose is phenomenal and something you respect and honour.”
Watching the parade were Graham and Veronica Downing from Britain, who had hung a large Union Jack on a security barrier and came with rain jackets and umbrellas.
“She embodied the spirit of our nation for 70 years,” said Mr. Downing.
JoAnne Cramer, treasurer of the Ottawa branch of the Monarchist League, and her husband Ray, travelled from Brockville, Ont., to view the procession. Ms. Cramer had seen the Queen several times during the monarch’s official visits to Canada – the first time as a 10-year-old girl.
“She gave us many years of sacrificial service,” said Ms. Cramer, who was dressed in black with a Jubilee broach on her lapel. “She was a person of integrity. I admired her.”
Michael Singoorvie, an Inuk originally from north Baffin Island, also came out to pay his respects. “She was an elegant Queen,” he said. “She wasn’t directly involved in colonialism. She inherited it. She was the only Queen I have ever known.”
A student at the Royal Military College, Kenneth Hammond, 19, watched the procession in his black naval dress uniform.
“I took my oath of service to her. I came to commemorate her long reign over us,” he said. “A lot of people with the Canadian Armed Forces have a deep connection with the monarchy.”
Jose Rodriguez, who lives in Ottawa, watched with his one-year-old corgi Maple. “Everyone is stopping us and saying ‘That’s the Queen’s dog’ ” he said.
With a report from The Canadian Press