By Charlie Senack
The passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 8 was a cause for mourning and reflection in the community.
Governor General and former Barrhaven resident Mary Simon paid respects to the British Monarch by saying in a statement: “On behalf of all Canadians, my husband, Whit, and I offer our condolences to the Royal Family on the loss, not just of a queen, but of a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.”
The Queen passed away comfortably in the afternoon on Sept. 8, with her son Prince Charles and daughter Princess Anne at her bedside. Other prominent members of the Royal household also rushed to Balmoral in Scotland, including Prince Harry who unfortunately arrived a few hours late.
Her Majesty’s last public appearance was two days before when she appointed new British Prime Minister Liz Trust.
The Queen’s passing will drastically change people’s perceptions of the Royal family with most not knowing a time without Queen Elizabeth ll as head of state.
Simon said it was the Queen’s compassion and caringness which most resonated with Canadians.
“Her Majesty cared about people, about our well-being. This was clear every time we spoke. She cared about Canada, and all the unique stories that make up our beautiful country,” Canada’s Governor General noted. “She learned our stories as she visited every corner of Canada during her many Royal Tours.”
Since her accession to the Throne in 1952, Queen Elizabeth had visited Canada 22 times for official Royal visits. She often called Canada her “second home.”
Queen Elizabeth’s last visit to this country was in 2010. It included a stop in Halifax to mark the centennial of the founding of the Royal Canadian Navy and Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. She also attended a dedication of the cornerstone for the Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg.
“Her Majesty celebrated our achievements, reassured us in difficult times and inspired us with her steadfast dedication to service,” said Simon. “Until her final days, she remained engaged and committed to her country, to the Commonwealth and to her family. With her passing, we mourn the end of an era.”
Simon took over the role as Governor General to Canada in July 2021. The former Barrhaven and Manotick resident met with the Queen at Windsor Castle in March of this year, and again at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June.
In her statement Simon remembered a piece of advice her Majesty gave her after first being appointed.
“Her Majesty said to me: ‘be gentle with yourself,’” recounted Simon. “I’ve come to understand her words to mean that while we should work hard on the issues that matter, we should also take time to pause. To be patient. To lead with understanding and respect. I can see the wisdom in these words.”
Attending the Platinum Jubilee
In June, Simon sat down in London with former CTV National News Anchor Lisa LaFlamme to talk about what it meant to be invited to her Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
Simon was given a second row seat to history, sitting behind Prince William and his family during the ‘Platinum Party at the Palace’ concert, which the Queen did not attend due to failing health. She did however get to participate in other aspects of the week-long event, and made two balcony appearances at Buckingham Palace.
During that visit Simon sat down with the Queen to talk about pressing Canadian issues including the multiple discoveries of graves at the sites of former Indian Residential Schools.
“She felt, you know, very bad about that, and really wanted things to work out for everybody,” Simon told CTV News. “So that was kind of the extent that we discussed that issue, but I did talk to her about the work that I’m doing on reconciliation, the work that I’ll be doing over the next year in my term is to bring Canadians and Indigenous Canadians both from across the country and from the Arctic, to have these discussions where we can learn about each other, and be able to live side-by-side and give each other space, and have equal opportunities and education, jobs.”
Growing up, Simon said her grandmother had a photo of Queen Elizabeth II who was “revered” in the Arctic. The Governor General said the Monarch was seen as the “highest order of the land” and had lots of respect.
“She inspired me for so many years,” said Simon. “I think role models like Her Majesty really help you stay strong, and to stay focused and work out what you feel is important. That’s what I’ve done. I also just was so touched by the love that she showed for her family, her grandchildren, her children.”
During their private conversation, Simon said the Queen talked about the importance of her family. “It was really beautiful,” she said.
That family will now come together around a new Head of State. Prince Charles will now be known as King Charles III, and his wife will be known as Queen Consort Camilla.
The new King is no stranger to Canada, visiting the county a total of 19 times. Charles and Camilla were last here in May when they attended multiple events in Ottawa.
While Charles has automatically become King, his official Coronation isn’t expected for at least a few months.
Simon alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other Canadian dignitaries are expected to attend the Queen’s funeral in the United Kingdom. The funeral is expected to take place 10 days after her death on Sunday, September 18.