PM offers condolences to Royal Family, flags at half-mast as Ottawa marks Prince Philip's death
OTTAWA -- Prominent federal figures including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are offering condolences to the Royal Family over the death of Prince Philip on Friday, as they reflect on the prince’s life and connection to Canada.
“Prince Philip was a man of service, motivated by a sense of duty to others,” he said during a press conference on Parliament Hill Friday, as he was updating Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that he “will be remembered as a champion for young people, a decorated naval officer, a dedicated philanthropist, and a constant in the life of Queen Elizabeth II.”
Trudeau said he learned of the death “with deep sadness,” and spoke about his memories dating back to childhood when his father was prime minister.
“Over the past few years, I've had the opportunity to have a few more conversations with him. And it is a tremendous personal as well as public sorrow that we all share at his passing,” Trudeau said Friday.
“The thoughts of Canadians are with Queen Elizabeth II and the members of the Royal Family as they mourn such a significant loss,” the prime minister said in a statement issued soon after the death was first announced by Buckingham Palace.
Ottawa began the eight-day mourning period over the death of Prince Philip on Friday, with the lowering of the flag atop the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill and at all federal buildings in Canada and abroad.
Canadian flags will be lowered from now until sunset on the day of the funeral or memorial service to mark the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.
At 9 a.m. Dominion Carilloneur Dr. Andrea McCrady tolled the bourdon bell, which is the largest bell in the Peace Tower carillon 99 times, one for each year of Prince Philip’s life.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Richard Wagner -- who is acting as the administrator of the Government of Canada while the country is without a governor general -- issued a statement offering his condolences to the members of the Royal Family, who Wagner said Prince Philip “devoted” his life to.
“Throughout his long life, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh devoted himself to the people of the Commonwealth and of Canada. He stood by Her Majesty The Queen for more than six decades, a constant and reassuring presence. He valued community, duty and service… A tireless world traveller, he showed that Canada held a special place in his heart by visiting this country more than any other,” wrote Wagner in his statement.
In his statement, Wagner remembered the Duke of Edinburgh as someone who valued duty, volunteerism, and service. A decorated naval officer, he was invested as Commander of the Order of Military Merit in Canada, and in 2011, he was named honorary general of the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force, as well as honorary admiral of the Royal Canadian Navy.
He also oversaw an award in his name that encouraged young people from around the world to take on community projects. More than 500,000 Canadians have participated in that program since it launched in this country in 1963.
“Whether speaking with young Canadians about their hopes and dreams, presenting colours and meeting troops at military bases and events, or representing the Crown at state occasions, Prince Philip constantly showed his commitment to Canada. He was a great friend of this country and he will be dearly missed,” Wagner said.
President of the Queen’s Privy Council and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc -- whose father Romeo LeBlanc was once the Queen’s representative in Canada -- offered his condolences over the “significant” loss of Prince Philip.
“I will always fondly remember a small dinner, on Canada Day, at Rideau Hall, when my father was Governor General and I sat at Prince Philip’s table. I join Canadians in recognizing his years of service and work for the empowerment of youth,” LeBlanc tweeted.
Elaborating during Friday’s federal press conference with Trudeau, LeBlanc remembered what he described as an “informal barbecue.”
“They had a free evening, and Her Majesty suggested perhaps a summer barbecue. There were only two tables of eight people at the dinner and I had the chance to sit at Prince Philip's table, and remember fondly his knowledge of Canada, his interest in Canadians and in Canada, but the passion with which he spoke about his service to young people. That is a memory I will always cherish,” he said.
In an interview with CTV National News’ Chief News Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme, former prime minister Jean Chretien spoke fondly of the times he met with Prince Philip, including when he was in Canada for Canada’s Centennial in 1967.
Chretien called him “a great gentleman, and a lot of fun,” explaining that the prince would practise speaking French with him, and that he was very interested in politics.
“Of course, he was sometimes controversial. He was very candid. And sometimes he would say things that were not absolutely you know, politically correct,” Chretien said.
“When I was sitting with him at these meetings, we would discuss American politics,” he said, adding that, at their last lunch together, the pair discussed the arrival of Donald Trump on the U.S. political scene.
Had MPs been sitting in the House of Commons this week, it was expected he and opposition leaders would deliver statements before adjourning for the day. Now it’s possible those formal parliamentary remarks will happen when sittings resume next week.
In a statement, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said that Prince Philip will be “deeply missed.”
“Pro Patria - For Country. This motto of the Royal Canadian Regiment… embodies his life of service to the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Commonwealth. During this life of remarkable service, His Royal Highness developed a strong bond with Canada and built connections with Canadians in every corner of our country,” O’Toole said.
“A great man is gone. What remains is Prince Philip’s example of steadfast service during a life of obligation, and a legacy of discreetly performed good works through which our country will be blessed for years to come,” said the Official Opposition leader.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who has in the past questioned the benefits of the monarchy in Canada, tweeted that: “so many families have experienced the loss of a loved one this past year,” and offered his condolences to the Royal Family “during this difficult time.”
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul also offered her condolences, saying the prince will be remembered as “the Queen’s loyal partner, as the longest-serving consort in British history, and also for his brave service during WWII.”
The Senate was also not in session this week. In a statement, Speaker of the Senate George Furey said the upper chamber is mourning the death of Prince Philip and will be celebrating his “remarkable life.”
“The century of his lifespan was marked by significant change, both in Canada and around the world. The death of The Duke of Edinburgh marks the end of an era,” said Furey. “The Senate offers, at this time, its deepest sympathies to Her Majesty The Queen and to the Royal Family. We join in sorrow our fellow nations throughout the Commonwealth who, like us, will greatly miss His late Royal Highness and all that his extraordinary character contributed to our shared heritage”
With the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis some aspects of commemoration and condolence in the days ahead will likely look different than is traditional in situations like this.
Heritage Canada has set up an online book of condolences for Canadians to sign, and “given COVID-19 protocols in place, no physical books of condolence will be made available,” in places like Rideau Hall or on Parliament Hill.