LONDON — Bernadette Christie has had a front-row view of some of the biggest royal events of the last decade.
She has seen Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle walk into the church on their wedding days, watched Queen Elizabeth pass by in a golden carriage and met Prince William. Now, the 68-year-old from Grande Prairie, Alta., is camping in a tent for five nights in London to ensure she has the best spot outside Monday’s funeral.
“I want a front-row seat, or else there’s no point in putting all this effort in,” she said.
On Wednesday night, Christie was setting up her green tent in the shadow of Buckingham Palace, alongside a small group of fellow royal watchers she jokingly calls the “diehards.” In the coming days, she plans to move her tent as close as possible to Westminster Abbey, where the queen’s funeral will take place.
Together, the campers help each other pitch tents, share food, take turns guarding each other’s things and soak in the atmosphere of royal weddings, birthdays, jubilees and, in this case, funerals. In addition to her small tent, Christie’s luggage contained a whole bunch of Canadian flags. Her nails are painted red and white, and she showed off the Canadian flag poncho that she sports at royal events.
Christie’s first memory of the queen was when she dressed up in her Brownie uniform at age seven to see the monarch during a royal visit to Canada. After that, she followed the Royal Family over the years through the queen’s Christmas messages, or joining the crowds during their Canadian visits, in between raising four children.
But when the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton — now Prince and Princess of Wales — came around in 2011, she decided it was time to go in person.
“I said to my husband: ‘All I want for Christmas is an airline ticket to England,’” she said in an interview Wednesday night.
Since then, she has returned several times, most recently for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June. Each time, she camps.
She said her favourite memories include getting to see the queen pass by in the rarely used gold state coach, and having a good view of Middleton, Camilla, now Queen Consort, and the royal children passing by in a coach.
“Seeing those little kids, just knowing that they don’t ask to be born into it,” was a highlight, she said.
Christie says camping allows her to see things that many others don’t: late night ceremony rehearsals, early morning comings-and-goings of the Royal Family, and occasional acknowledgment from the royals themselves. But the main reason she does it is to be as close as possible to what she sees as history’s momentous events.
Rather than what she gets to see, “it’s more what you get to feel,” she said. “You feel the mood of people.”
Fellow camper Maria Scott, from Newcastle in northern England, said her passion for the Royal Family began with Diana, the late Princess of Wales.
“There was an aura about her and she really connected with people like me,” she said. “She was going through things we were going through.”
Scott has since tried to be present for the major milestones in the lives of Diana’s children, Princes William and Harry. She camped out at their weddings and for the births and baptisms of Prince William’s three children.
“Seeing it on TV doesn’t do it justice,” she said. “You have to be here.”
Christie says she has met many friendly people who stop to offer food or help with tents, or simply to have a chat. She and the other campers have also become fast friends, she said.
That’s not to say it isn’t tough. London’s damp weather means she gets soaked — often. And midnight parade rehearsals, while interesting, aren’t exactly conducive to a good night’s sleep. Tents also have to be taken down early in the morning on the order of authorities.
On Thursday afternoon, Christie could be seen fast asleep on the ground beneath her Canadian flag, oblivious to the hundreds of people streaming by only a few feet away.
“It’s back-breaking, you get freezing cold, you get wet,” she had said the night before. “But it’s fun.”
Christie plans to return to England for King Charles III’s coronation, but she thinks that might be the last time. However, she admitted she has said that before, after a particularly cold and damp time at the Queen’s jubilee. Soon after, she said, she went out and bought the new tent she’s sleeping in now.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2022.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
Joly to raise abortion, sexual violence in closing UN speech
OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly is urging countries to uphold women’s rights and abortion access while rooting out sexual violence, as the United Nations General Assembly comes to a close.
In a speech today in New York, Joly will summarize Canada’s priorities and concerns in foreign relations.
That includes being part of “a global coalition in support of equality” that will “defend against the growing attacks on women’s rights and freedoms,” according to drafted remarks in French.
“Sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls are being rolled back or denied in too many countries,” Joly’s drafted remarks say.
“Canada will always stand up for your right to choose.”
Though the drafted section on women’s rights does not mention the United States, Joly’s comments come after months of backlash to the U.S. Supreme Court allowing states to ban abortions, with some seeking to prosecute those who help women end their pregnancies in other jurisdictions.
Joly’s remarks instead mention women targeted by autocratic governments, such as the Taliban preventing Afghan girls from attending school. She calls out Myanmar’s military junta imprisoning female democracy activists and sexually assaulting Rohingya women.
The speech cites Iran’s crackdown on protesters seeking accountability after the death of Mahsa Amini, when morality police arrested her for “unsuitable attire” in allegedly wearing a hijab improperly. Joly also notes Ukrainian women have been subjected to sexual violence by occupying Russian forces.
Joly argues deliberate policy choices are resulting in rising violence against women, who are excluded from “the negotiating table, the boardroom, the classroom.”
The speech is likely to take place around noon local time, and will include some of the themes raised last week in New York by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. His remarks surrounded climate change and international development.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.
Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press
Military en route to assist with recovery efforts
Residents of Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec are coming to terms with the full scope of the damage left behind after post-tropical storm Fiona tore through the region over the weekend as one of the strongest storms Canada’s East Coast has ever faced.
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are being deployed to help with recovery efforts, with federal Defence Minister Anita Anand saying Sunday that about 100 troops a piece were either in place or en route to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and P.E.I. to provide assistance with the cleanup effort.
Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said the immediate need is to provide food and shelter for those displaced by the storm, which is why the federal government is matching donations to the Canadian Red Cross.
However, he added that Ottawa will work with provinces to determine what is needed for recovery from a financial perspective, especially for Canadians who have lost everything. He said the first priority is the restoration of power and utilities, as well as clearing roadways to get essential supplies to those who need them.
At Fiona’s peak on Saturday, more than 500,000 customers across Atlantic Canada were without power, but by early Monday morning that number had been lowered to less than 300,000, with the vast majority in Nova Scotia. But even as crews workaround the clock to repair downed lines, some utility companies warned it could be days before the power is back on for everyone.
Authorities in western Newfoundland confirmed Fiona’s first Canadian fatality on Sunday. RCMP said a 73-year-old woman’s body was recovered from the water more than 24 hours after a massive wave struck her home, tearing away part of the basement. Her name was not immediately released.
The cause of death of a second person on P.E.I. has yet to be determined, but the Island’s acting director of public safety told a news conference that preliminary findings pointed towards “generator use.” No further details were provided.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2022.
The Canadian Press
Industry minister to represent Canada at former Japanese PM’s funeral
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was scheduled to visit Japan and attend Tuesday’s funeral, but cancelled those plans to oversee recovery efforts after post-tropical storm Fiona ravaged much of eastern Canada and parts of Quebec.
Describing Abe as a friend and ally of Canada, Champagne says the former Japanese prime minister played an important role bringing the two countries closer together.
Trudeau was slated to meet current Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as Japan prepares to take over as president of the G7 and the Liberal government finalizes its new Indo-Pacific strategy.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Champagne says he doesn’t know if he will meet Kishida on behalf of Trudeau.
But he says in addition to paying respects to Abe, he expects to meet Japanese officials to discuss the bilateral relationship and areas of mutual co-operation.
“Certainly, I think Prime Minister Kishida knows how deeply engaged we have been, certainly on the industrial, commercial and economic front,” he said.
“And we’ll be meeting with a number of people. I just don’t know if the meeting with the prime minister will still be happening.”
Champagne was in Japan delivering a speech to business representatives in Tokyo when Abe was assassinated by a gunman in July.
The industry minister says it was a surreal moment when he learned the former Japanese prime minister had been killed.
“I was literally giving a speech,” Champagne said. “I was like three-quarters into it and suddenly I started to see people looking at their phones. And someone came to the podium and advised me that something very tragic had happened.”
Abe’s state funeral is a sensitive topic in Japan, where such memorials are uncommon and the late leader’s legacy remains disputed.
Abe, a conservative nationalist in a country that embraced pacifism after the Second World War, was assassinated with a homemade firearm nearly three months ago.
In a reflection of deep divisions, an elderly man reportedly set himself on fire to protest the funeral, and more demonstrations are expected in the coming days.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2022.
— With files from The Associated Press.
Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
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