Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I rise today on behalf of the Progressive Senate Group to add words of condolence on the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Honourable senators, there are moments in our lives where something shifts, and suddenly things that previously felt steadfast are no longer. Once again, we find ourselves witnessing history as our head of state and the longest-reigning British monarch died on September 8 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland with family by her side.
For most, if not all, of our lives, she has been the familiar face on stamps and currency. She has made it nearly impossible to see a corgi and not think of her. For some, she was the woman who jumped out of a helicopter with James Bond. For others — as Senator Gold said earlier — she was the grandmother who had tea and marmalade sandwiches with Paddington Bear. She was the first woman from the Royal Family to serve as a full-time active member of the British Armed Forces. Hers was the reassuring voice that spoke to us each Christmas Day. She was the unwavering point of strength and stability in a world of unstoppable and unexpected changes.
Much has been said about the enormous swath of events that have been committed to our history books over the course of Queen Elizabeth’s time on the throne. The changes that we have witnessed over those 70 years have been remarkable. Hers was the first coronation to be televised and the first transatlantic television broadcast, which had footage flown to Canada to be shown on CBC. What a change in our technological landscape that many learned of her passing through an official tweet from the Royal Family.
Throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth and across the world, there has been a tremendous outpouring of condolences honouring the extraordinary life and legacy of Her late Majesty. Words like “grace,” “wisdom,” “devotion” and “charm” have all featured heavily in these tributes. Many have shared or reshared anecdotes of their own personal encounters with the Queen. It is striking that, in all these stories, we can see that though she held such a monumental role, she also had the uncanny ability to connect with people on a personal level.
These moments when we have been able to get a glimpse of the person behind the office have shown that while she has been rightfully celebrated for fulfilling her public duties as monarch so ably, she was equally effective at creating lasting memories for those who only experienced a brief moment with Her Majesty. So many of us felt this connection regardless of whether we were lucky enough to have had a personal royal encounter. I know that people from all provinces and territories — and, indeed, every city that served as a stop on a royal tour — took great pride in remembering those occasions when Her Majesty visited their region.
I, of course, am no exception and would like to remind you that my own province of Nova Scotia was pleased to host Queen Elizabeth on five separate occasions. Her first official visit was in 1951, while she was still Princess Elizabeth. CBC News noted of her visit to Cape Breton:
When this grand lassie and her good-lookin’ husband came to see us folks here in Cape Breton, it was the biggest day we’ve ever had on the island.
Her last trip to Nova Scotia was in 2010, which was also her last royal visit to Canada. She began this royal tour in Halifax and participated in several important events, including honouring the four hundredth anniversary of the baptism of Grand Chief Henri Membertou in a Mi’kmaq cultural event, celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of the Royal Canadian Navy and attending the rededication of Government House, the home of our Lieutenant Governor, which had been renovated and was reopening.
Queen Elizabeth’s first official visit to Canada as Queen took place in 1957 and marked the first time she opened our Parliament, reading the Speech from the Throne in the Senate Chamber. On that occasion, she recalled the words of “the earlier Elizabeth,” whom she quoted as saying, “I count the glory of my Crown, that I have reigned with your loves.” She continued to say that:
Now here in the new world I say to you that it is my wish that in the years before me I may so reign in Canada and be so remembered.
Honourable colleagues, I dare say that Her late Majesty’s wish was indeed fulfilled.
She also opened the Third Session of the Thirtieth Parliament during her Silver Jubilee tour in 1977. On that occasion, she told Parliament that:
In ten visits together to Canada spread over a quarter of a century—seven in the last decade alone—Prince Philip and I have met many thousands of Canadians in all walks of life, of all ages, in every province and territory. My happiest memories of our travels throughout Canada have been these individual contacts which have revealed the enormous strength and astonishing diversity of this nation.
As noted earlier, this dedication to personal connections shall be her lasting legacy. As the most travelled monarch in history, she was continually seeking out these experiences.
Her Majesty certainly succeeded in fulfilling the promise she made at the young age of 21 — that her “. . . whole life . . . shall be devoted to . . . service . . . .” Indeed, the last public photograph we have of her, standing in front of a fire in a grand room in Balmoral Castle, marked the official appointment of Britain’s newest prime minister, the fifteenth to serve during the Queen’s reign. The meeting took place only two days before her death. The next day saw the last public statement she issued — to the Governor General and the people of Canada — expressing her condolences following the attacks in Saskatchewan by saying that her thoughts were still with the James Smith Cree Nation and the tragedy they had experienced. As Her Majesty grieved for us, so we now grieve for her.
Grief is a complicated thing, and I would like to acknowledge that we have all experienced a different relationship with the monarchy. Some may be struggling with competing emotions these days. My thoughts, in particular, are with Indigenous peoples, as theirs is a treaty relationship. Though many have spoken about the Queen’s compassion and respect, it is certain that much work remains in our journey to reconciliation.
The Queen once said, “Grief is the price we pay for love.” On behalf of the Progressive Senate Group, I offer my sincere condolences to the Royal Family and to all those who mourn the loss of this much beloved monarch. May her legacy of strength, stability and service be an inspiration to us all.
May she rest in peace and God save the King.