Ms. Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, NDP): Madam Speaker, today we are here to commemorate Britain’s longest reigning monarch and Canada’s longest serving head of state, Queen Elizabeth II.
The Queen lived a long life of duty, stability and public service and was an enduring and steadfast presence on the world stage throughout her seven decades as Queen.
I rise today to express my deepest condolences to the royal family as they mourn the loss of their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Experiencing the death of a loved one is never an easy process and I hope that, as they reflect on the life of the queen, Queen Elizabeth II, they can find comfort in the memories of the many moments that they shared together.
Serving for over 70 years, there is no doubt that Queen Elizabeth II made her mark on this world and in our collective history.
The Queen succeeded to the throne on February 6, 1952, after the death of her father, taking on this enormous responsibility while in her twenties. On the global stage, many described her as hard-working and dedicated, always observing her duty to serve. In 1945, during World War II, she became the first woman in the royal family to serve as a full active member of the British Armed Forces, when she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, working as a mechanic and truck driver, before rising to the ranks of junior commander. Up until her passing, she was the only living current head of state who served in the second world war.
She later made headlines in 2003 when she drove the crown prince of Saudi Arabia on a tour of the Queen's castle, perceived as a statement at a time when women did not even have the right to drive in Saudi Arabia.
In 2011, the Queen oversaw a change to succession laws that meant sons and daughters of any future British monarch would have equal rights to the throne.
The Queen was well known for her commitment to supporting charity and humanitarian efforts around the globe. She had relationships with over 500 charities, professional bodies and public service organizations, helping to raise over $2 billion for over 600 non-profits during her reign, more than any monarch in history. Organizations she supported included the Red Cross, the Royal College of Nursing and the Disaster Emergency Committee.
Queen Elizabeth II was the royal patron to several Canadian charities, raising awareness and bringing recognition to the work of these important organizations, including the Canadian Red Cross Society, the Canadian Cancer Society, Save the Children Canada and the Canadian Nurses Association.
As a Commonwealth country, the Queen had a special significance to Canada. For the past 70 years, the Queen influenced Canadian history in ways which will continue to be felt into the future.
She was known to refer to Canada as “home”. In describing Canada, she once stated, “I am sure that nowhere under the sun could one find a land more full of hope, of happiness and of fine, loyal, generous-hearted people.”
Several notable Canadians attended her coronation on June 2, 1953, including prime minister Louis St. Laurent, Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas, and Chief Joe Mathias from the Squamish Nation.
As the Queen to Canada, her reign extended over the mandates of 12 Canadian prime ministers and 13 governors general. Several of her 22 visits to Canada occurred at critical junctures in Canada's history. Her first official visit as Queen to Canada was in 1957. On October 14, 1957 she became the first sovereign to open a session of Canadian parliament in person and delivered the throne speech. In 1964, she attended the centennial of two pre-Confederation conferences in Charlottetown and Quebec City. A year later, she signed the royal proclamation that gave Canada its new maple leaf flag. She also took part in the opening ceremonies of the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.
In 1982, she returned to Canada for the proclamation of the Constitution to sign Canada’s constitutional proclamation. This enshrined the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and gave Canada independence over our Constitution. It also recognized the treaty rights for indigenous peoples under section 35, an important milestone for the legal recognition of indigenous rights in Canada.
The Queen also visited my home province of British Columbia seven times in her life. As princess, she visited a Vancouver East landmark, the Pacific National Exhibition, in 1951, and Empire Stadium in 1959 as Queen.
Hockey fans may remember her visit during the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 when she dropped the puck at a Vancouver NHL game. These moments help explain the way in which the Queen is embedded in many Canadians' national imagery and socio-cultural traditions.
Our nation's past and present is institutionally tied to the British Crown. For the last 70 years, no legislation has become federal law without Her Majesty's approval through the process of royal assent. To many Canadians, including myself, she is the only head of state we have known. While we may not think about the British Crown on a daily basis, as we mourn her passing, it also invites a moment of reflection.
As the member of Parliament for Vancouver East, a diverse, vibrant and active community, I have been reflecting on what the Queen's passing means for members of the community in Vancouver East.
For veterans in the community and across Canada, many feel a special bond with Queen Elizabeth II. A veteran herself who served in the Second World War, she was the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces. The Royal Canadian Legion, Canada’s largest veteran support organization, of which there are branches throughout Vancouver East, has a strong connection to the Crown.
A recent statement from the Royal Canadian Legion explained that the use of the word “royal” in the name came about in 1961 upon the Queen providing consent for its use. The Queen had a special connection to and publicly showed her support for Canadian veterans. She visited the National War Memorial in 1967 and later in 2007, she rededicated the Canadian National Vimy Memorial declaring that, “the Canadian Corps transformed Vimy Ridge from a symbol of despair into a source of inspiration.”
I am thinking about the many veterans in Vancouver East who find community in the legion halls, throughout the riding and who attend the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Grandview Park Cenotaph and Chinese Canadian War Memorial. The veterans responded to the duty to serve, not dissimilar to the manner in which the way the Queen responded to her duty to serve.
As a Chinese Canadian born in Hong Kong, which was under British colonial rule until 1997, I also reflect on the meaning of the Queen’s passing to those in my riding who immigrated to Canada from other Commonwealth countries or former British colonies.
Given the developments in Hong Kong since the handover with the national security law, many Hong Kongers are lamenting that they had more freedoms when Hong Kong was under British rule. With that being said, we must also acknowledge that not everyone feels able to celebrate the life of a monarch or mourn her loss.
Many Canadians feel pain and grief from the harms and injustices of British colonial rule. The relationship to the Crown may be most significant and most challenging for indigenous peoples in Canada for whom a direct relationship was established through royal proclamation, followed by the treaty-making process.
The issuance of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 served as the foundation in the relationship between indigenous peoples and the Crown, recognizing indigenous land rights under the law and establishing a nation-to-nation relationship. While this predates both Confederation and the Queen’s reign, it is fundamental to Crown-indigenous relations.
It is important, as we reflect on the significance of the Queen’s relationship with indigenous peoples, that we open space to hear indigenous voices, many of whom are grappling with the pain of colonization. Rather than bring up feelings of national pride or nostalgia, the Queen acts as a symbol of colonization.
First nations leaders have called on the Crown to take further action on reconciliation. The British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs have called on the new King to make his first official act a renunciation of the doctrine of discovery, a component of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to action 45. As we reflect on the passing of the Queen, we must also make space to reflect on the damage of colonization that continues to impact indigenous communities.