‘The end of an era’: Canadians react to the death of Queen Elizabeth II
When British Columbian Jason Dorey learned that Queen Elizabeth II had passed away, he was seized with a desire to share his grief.
So the Victoria resident traveled to the BC Legislative Assembly to pay his respects in front of a portrait of the Queen in the stained glass windows of the Hall of Honor, where he came across a woman doing the same.
They spoke of their admiration for the queen. Both started crying.
And then the strangers found themselves in each other’s arms, hugging and sobbing under the gaze of the woman they loved so much.
« I was in shock, » Dorey said, her eyes still watery. « I’m just not used to not having him in my presence. »
News of the death of Britain’s longest-serving monarch at the age of 96 sent shockwaves across Canada on Thursday.
Few Canadians have known a time when the Queen was not their official head of state.
From political leaders to royal officers to ordinary citizens, Canadians remember the sovereign as a paragon of duty and an enduring part of the national fabric.
« I think she will be remembered as one of the country’s greatest icons, » said Robert Finch, president of the Monarchist League of Canada. « The constant in the world of change. »
Prime ministers and lieutenant governors from coast to coast have extolled the Queen’s personal ties to their provinces during her dozens of visits to Canada during her long reign.
The Queen’s frequent presence showed she was much more than a figurehead in Canada and cared for the country through good times and bad, Finch said.
« She wasn’t a fair-weather friend, » Finch said. « She was really there as one of us. »
Canadians will process the Queen’s loss at their own pace as they reflect on her legacy and try to anticipate what awaits them when King Charles III takes the throne, Finch said.
« It’s one of those times in your life where you’ll remember where you were, » he said. « It’s the end of an era. »
Larry Budd in Toronto was among many Canadians following updates on the Queen’s health as her family flocked to her bedside on Thursday. He said he choked when he found out she was gone.
« The Queen has been a part of my life for my whole life, » Budd, 77, said. « She’s definitely been a part of Canadian culture since I’ve been alive. »
David Lilley and his wife were just days away from their holiday in Halifax when news of the Queen’s death forced them to book flights to England.
Lilley is one of 10 royal ushers who officiate at events such as weddings and funerals.
« I have to be back for Westminster Abbey, » said Lilley, who was appointed to the role six years ago. « We all do the work until the age of 70, so I have a few years left. And now I will serve the King.
Lilley has met the Queen several times in the course of her duties. « She took my arm and I helped her down steps and things like that, » he said. « She was just very genuine…. She could just talk to people. »
English expat Richard Stead also fondly recalled the handful of times he saw the Queen during her travels to Edmonton and New Zealand and celebrated her coronation as a youngster.
Stead, who has lived in Edmonton for nearly 50 years, said he was deeply saddened to learn of her passing. « It’s a great loss for the UK »
« It will be difficult for my generation to accept whoever replaces them, » Stead said.
Shawn Wade, president of the British Columbia branch of the Royal Commonwealth Society, a royalist group of more than 100 members, compared learning of the Queen’s death to a bomb blast.
« It’s really like losing someone in the family, » Wade said. « She’s been in our lives from the moment we were born…. You can’t understand that. »
In Montreal, Michelle Phelan said she was born the year Queen Elizabeth took the throne.
« She’s the only queen I know, » she said.
Phelan praised the Queen for how she handled her role, especially given how young she was when she began her reign.
« Here, there are Quebecers who don’t like the monarchy, but I think the rest of Canada, or part of Canada, respects it, » she said. « But even though we are not for the monarchy, we are sad. »
The woman who shared Dorey’s grief in the BC Legislative Assembly turned out to be an American.
Linda Woods, from suburban Philadelphia, was visiting Victoria on a cruise ship bound for Alaska. She said she had been on a tour of the historic legislature when the Queen’s death was announced, silencing the group as they bowed their heads.
“She herself was a queen who did well for her country. I just admire him,” Woods said.
Dorey echoed the sentiment. « She was loyal to her country and to the Commonwealth, » he said.
— with files from Paola Loriggio in Toronto, Lyndsay Armstrong in Halifax, Angela Amato in Edmonton, Dirk Meissner in Victoria and Nono Shen in Vancouver
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 8, 2022.
Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press