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Canada pays tribute to Queen Elizabeth II in commemorative service at Cathedral

On Sept. 19, Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa was at the centre of Canada’s commemoration of the life of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The ceremony, broadcast nationally, was attended by former prime ministers and many dignitaries. It Included speeches, prayers and music both sacred and secular. Pictured above is former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, who paid tribute to a woman she admired and praised as “the essence of equanimity.”
By on November 1, 2022
Photography: 
Courtesy of Canadian Heritage

On Sept. 19, Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa filled with dignitaries and luminaries gathered for the national commemorative ceremony for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away peacefully at the age of 96 on Sept. 8.

Echoing the service at the cathedral for His Royal Highness Prince Philip in 2021, the Appleby College String Ensemble performed a moving rendition of Amazing Grace.

A military parade led by members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police through downtown Ottawa streets delivered the Queen’s folded personal Canadian flag to the Cathedral. 

Pipe Major Alan B. Clark led the memorial procession in with the lament ‘To Thy Rest’ on bagpipes, her flag was placed beside her portrait, and the Cathedral choir sang ‘God shall wipe away all tears’ by eminent Canadian composer Eleanor Daley. 

Dean Beth Bretzlaff welcomed everyone, acknowledging that the cathedral is on the unceded territory of the Anishinaabe Algonquin nation.

Then Algonquin traditional teacher and Ottawa poet laureate, Albert Dumont, who is also Algonquin advisor to Bishop Shane Parker, offered a poetic vision of the Queen’s entry into the spiritual realm:

From the deathbed, a young and vibrant Queen rose to mount the magnificent Burmese, who carried her to the side of a horseman, waiting to go with her to the oaks of Loch Lomond to reflect upon the years of her reign. In the spiritual world where the old are young again, the Queen and Duke rejoin, to continue, the unconditional love and support they nurtured for one another, while bringing culture and identity to the British people.

Physical death, the soul leaves it in the past and the amazing heart of the spirit begins its eternal life. A new world begins, where the fair-minded and good-hearted among us will hear an honour song being sung for them after the transformation, from the physical life to the spiritual one, comes to pass.

The Queen is dead! In the land 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, making their way to the Queen Mother who waits to hold her daughter close to her bosom once again. To the mourners, the Queen was as the grandest tree in a boreal forest. A tree, whose spirit and grace spread pride and comforting smiles to all around it. A tree, a “Mother to All”, whose commitment to duty brought emotional wellness to those standing in its shadow. 

Addressing the complicated history of colonialism in this land, Dumont envisioned that 

The horrors committed against Indigenous Peoples of British colonized lands by past monarchs will be spoken about around the council fire of the Spirit Land. The Queen will at that time renounce the brutality of the past. Her good heart, the teachings of the Spawning Moon into which she was born, the Whitefish Moon into which her last heartbeat was captured, will direct her to do so.

The Queen, her gentleness, her ability to emotionally connect with the common people, her desire to make the world cleaner and safer, are truths she carries with her now into the Great Land of Souls. She was a light to British subjects while she walked on this earth. To the people who love her, she continues to be a fire, now offering in its circle, a role model or the future generations of her bloodline to follow. May she rest in peace.

Dean Bretzlaff prayed, “God of all consolation, you turned the darkness of death into the dawn of new life.. Grant us grace to entrust Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to your never-failing love, which sustained her in this life. Receive her into the arms of your mercy…’

Donald Booth, Canadian Secretary to the King, read from Philipians 4:4-9. 

Brigadier-General Guy Bélisle, Chaplain General of the Canadian Armed Forces, offered a prayer on behalf of the interfaith community. “Remembering Elizabeth II’s service and her dedication to the cause of peace. We pray for a spirit of respect and reconciliation among nations and peoples. “

The Cathedral choir sang the 23rd Psalm, in a setting by English Cathedral musician Charles Hylton Stewart.

South-Korean born Canadian violinist David Baik played Nimrod from Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations.

Regina requiescit, composed by Master Bombardier Julien Simard and recorded by The Royal Canadian Artillery Band, played during a video retrospective of Queen Elizabeth’s life and her relationship with Canada.

Former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson began her remarks by saying “I’m so happy to be in this Cathedral, which was my family’s parish church when we first arrived in Canada 80 years ago.

 “In 1982, Queen Elizabeth II came and signed the patriation of our constitution for which Canadians had worked for decades. We gained our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canadians will always remember the Queen for coming to sign over to us what is rightfully ours — our human rights, our human freedom. …It provides the light that exposes ignorance and bigotry.”

Clarkson shared a memory from one of her last visits with the Queen at Sandringham. “I shall never abdicate,” the Queen told her. “Although I suppose if I became completely gaga, one would have to do something,” the Queen said, in a glimpse of her renowned humour. 

“But she held the course to the end,” said Clarkson. “Focused, dutiful, calm, the essence of equanimity. …. The life and reign of Elizabeth the II has been witness to our struggle to become what we are meant to be, the true, the north, the free.”

Actress and singer Patricia Cano sang ‘The Thank You Song,’ accompanied on piano by the song’s composer, Tomson Highway and saxophonist Marcus Ali.

Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney shared some reflections on his years serving as the Queen’s prime minister. “There were many issues on which we were keenly aligned, especially in relation to Canadian unity and the Commonwealth in the years when Canada was in the forefront of the battle for the liberation of Nelson Mandela and the destruction of the evil system of apartheid in South Africa.” He noted that Queen Elizabeth’s “discreet, brilliant, and generous guidance and unerring instinct,” was instrumental in that effort and ultimate victory.

“I was often astonished by the interest and care she showed for Canada and its people which went well beyond the simple fact that she was head of state….She harboured a deep love for Canada, for its diversity, its geography and its history….To President Reagan in 1983 who asked as she prepared to leave California for British Columbia following a state visit to the United States, President Reagan asked where she was going next, and she replied, ‘Mr. President, I am going home to Canada.’ ”

Singer, actress, author and composer Ginette Reno performed Ceux qui s’en vont accompanied by Pascalin Raynault on piano.

The last musical interlude Leonard Cohen’s iconic song “Hallejuah,” performed by singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, was followed by a moment of silence.

Then Bishop Parker offered the prayer of commendation:  “Into your hands, O merciful saviour, we commend your servant, Elizabeth. Acknowledge, we pray, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.

The choir sang ‘Yours be the glory, risen conquering Son’. Finally, actress and singer Kim Richardson sang the national anthem and Pipe Major Alan Clark led the recession playing ‘Be Still My Soul (Finlandia.)

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