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Canadians pay homage to Queen Elizabeth with ceremonies across the country

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OTTAWA — Canadians gathered in multiple cities to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II Monday, in local services and events following her state funeral in London earlier in the day.

In Ottawa, a national tribute service at Christ Church Cathedral included prayers and memories of her many trips to Canada.

Algonquin spiritual adviser and poet Albert Dumont ushered Queen Elizabeth II into the arms of her husband, Prince Philip, who died 17 months earlier.

“In the land of the red Maple Leaf, the sorrow of many citizens fills the skies,” he said. “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.”

The service followed a short military parade through downtown Ottawa that saw RCMP officers on horseback and members of the Canadian Armed Forces march past the National War Memorial and Parliament Hill.

In London earlier, several Mounties on horseback led the funeral procession, a tribute to her enduring affection for Canada’s national police force.

Inside Christ Church Cathedral, a who’s who of Ottawa’s political elite gathered to remember the queen, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and most of the Liberal cabinet, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

Former governor general Adrienne Clarkson remembered a funny moment from her final conversation with the queen at her Sandringham estate, in which Queen Elizabeth suddenly said in a quiet moment after dinner, “I shall never abdicate.”

“I was rather taken aback and replied, ‘I wouldn’t have expected that you would,’” Clarkson remembered. “And she said, ‘It is not in our tradition. Although, I suppose if I became completely gaga, one would have to do something.’ But she held the course to the end: focused, dutiful, calm, the essence of equanimity.”

Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark, the only living prime ministers who were unable to make the trip to London for the state funeral, were both in attendance at the Ottawa service. In his speech, Mulroney remembered the former monarch with fondness.

“She was extremely intelligent,” he said. “A woman of impeccable judgment. Resolute, selfless, witty — very witty — and kind.”

He also pointed to the role the queen played in ending apartheid in South Africa, something Nelson Mandela called his “greatest triumph.”

Mulroney said that triumph “would never have taken place in the Commonwealth had it not been for Her Majesty’s discreet, brilliant, and generous guidance and unerring instinct for the victory we all sought.”

Tributes and church services took place from St. John’s to Victoria Monday. In Newfoundland and Labrador’s capital, Lt.-Gov. Judy Foote laid a wreath in front of a portrait of the queen during a service at the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

In Winnipeg, a 96-gun salute at the Manitoba legislative building left a trail of smoke and some gathered covering their ears.

Sallie Hunt, who travelled over 200 kilometres to Winnipeg from Kenora, Ont., said the event offered her a sense of closure.

“She’s been the queen all of my life,” Hunt said.

Hunt’s mother was the same age as the queen, and she wore two of her mother’s rings to acknowledge the connection.

In Edmonton, a modest crowd in raincoats watched solemnly at a service at the Alberta legislature and Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani reflected on the queen’s fondness for Canada.

“The Commonwealth, as we all know, is an institution that she was dearly committed to,” said Lakhani. “Your Majesty, we will truly miss you.”

In Toronto, bells rang at Old City Hall, continuing once a minute for 96 straight minutes.

Onlookers gathered in small numbers on surrounding sidewalks, some stopping just for a moment to pay their respects while we others stood silently for minutes.

In Charlottetown, a ceremony at St. Peter’s Cathedral began with a Mi’kmaq drum tribute and song.

In Victoria, two women visiting from Ukraine as part of a Canada-Ukraine police training project joined those watching a procession from the provincial legislature to a local cathedral.

“It’s my first time in Canada,” said Kate, who said she could not provide her last name. “I really would like to be part of this historic moment. I think she is a great example of leadership for the whole world, especially women.”

In Ottawa, a parade that began not far from the British consulate included one member carrying the queen’s Canadian flag, folded and wrapped in plastic to protect it from the rain. Upon arrival at the cathedral, the flag was set on a stand at the front of the church.

Sandra Tisch and her husband Rob Semancik drove eight hours from Oldcastle, Ont., near Windsor, and got up early to watch the televised service from London before taking in the Ottawa parade.

“It’s been an emotional 10 days,” said Tisch, who brought flowers to leave at the British High Commission and planned to visit a statue of Queen Elizabeth.

“She gave her life to her country, and I think she did a lot of good.”

Alexandra McLean, the descendant of a British war bride who married a Canadian soldier, said she came out to commemorate the work of the queen and what it symbolizes to those who took up arms in her service.

“We’re mourning our grandmothers as well,” she said.

“We are respecting the head of state, constitutional democracy (and) the woman who served us very well, and we’re honouring the people who loved her, who saw in her service their own service and what gave them strength for that service.”

McLean said that just as King Charles made overtures to the nations of the United Kingdom such as Wales, Canada needs to do more to reconcile with Indigenous nations.

“It’s a really complicated moment, and I don’t think we’ll solve some of these problems without recognizing that they’re family problems.”

Security was evident but not overt, as Ottawa municipal police officers rode on bicycles alongside the marchers in the parade. Snipers were positioned on some building roofs around the downtown area.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2022.

— With files from Keith Doucette in Halifax, Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg, Dirk Meissner in Victoria, Tyler Griffin in Toronto, and Angela Amato in Edmonton.

 

Mia Rabson, Laura Osman and Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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Industry minister to represent Canada at former Japanese PM’s funeral

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OTTAWA — Federal Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne will represent Canada at former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s state funeral this week.

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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Couple proceeds with wedding amid chaos in P.E.I. from post-tropical storm Fiona

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CHARLOTTETOWN — Naomi and Tyler Wheeler have lived through a pandemic, wildfires, heat waves, minor earthquakes and most recently a post-tropical storm that laid waste to huge swaths of Atlantic Canada.

As the former hurricane Fiona pounded Prince Edward Island on Saturday, devastating much of the province, the couple pledged to weather storms — and any other apocalyptic events life sends their way — together.

In front of just 16 guests, down from the 85 they’d hoped to entertain, the Wheelers professed their love for each other and exchanged rings at the Rodd Charlottetown hotel in the capital city’s downtown core.

The couple officially tied the knot in Halifax in 2017 in a small ceremony and decided to have a party later.

“We tried to schedule it three times,” Naomi Wheeler said with a laugh. “And then COVID kept getting in the way. Of course, a hurricane happens when we reschedule.”

The couple live in the bride’s California home town, while the groom hails from Montague, P.E.I. They wanted to have a party for Tyler Wheeler’s family and other friends who wouldn’t be able to make it to Los Angeles.

They landed in Charlottetown Wednesday when Fiona was churning its way through southern waters. But as the storm approached Canada and warnings grew stringent, their friends cancelled. The couple was disappointed but understood. They wanted their friends and family safe.

“There was the whole stages of grief about it,” Tyler Wheeler said. “We’re just kind of in disbelief that this could happen.”

The couple then simply decided to go with the flow, said the bride.

“The flow is just a hurricane.”

The wedding was delayed by an hour-and-a-half while the officiant, Sarah Haberl, and the groom helped patch up a family member’s roof. The Wheelers first met as students at a 2013 party in Montreal. Later that evening, the pair recognized each other at a club where they had gone to act as “wing people” for friends.

“We were terrible wing people,” said the bride.

Nine years later, as Fiona raged, the couple finally celebrated their love and friendship with their closest friends in a storm-adapted ceremony they said was sprinkled with personal touches.

The room was lit with 30 candles and three iPhone flashlights. The invocation and vows were read by candlelight and a headlamp, Haberl said.

The ceremony included a poem, a little bit of the childhood of the couple and had some “lovey-dovey things,” she said.

The rings the Wheelers eventually exchanged were first passed around the room so guests could offer a blessing on them.

The raspberry and vanilla swirl cake was topped with fresh flowers and made by the groom’s sister-in-law.

One of the first songs partygoers danced to was the well-known sea shanty ‘Barrett’s Privateers.’

“We had to get a little bit of Nova Scotia in there,” the groom said.

Amid the celebration, the couple said there was a touch of sadness because the groom’s grandparents couldn’t attend.

Reflecting on their ceremony and the past few whirlwind days, the bride said they didn’t realize how fast and how bad things could get with the weather. But Naomi Wheeler said she also feels overwhelmed by the amount of support she got and how everyone came together.

“I think we embraced it. It was a lovely, lovely, cosy, intimate evening,” she said. “I feel very loved.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2022.

 

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press

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Canadian military facing a recruitment crisis – CTV News

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OTTAWA –

The Canadian Armed Forces is sounding the alarm over a severe shortage of recruits to fill thousands of vacant positions, with the shortfall so bad that senior officers are now calling it a crisis.

On a cool Tuesday afternoon, Robert Romero walks out of the Canadian Armed Forces’ recruiting office in downtown Ottawa with an envelope full of papers in his hands.

Originally from the Philippines, Romero does not have any direct experience with Canada’s military; his interest is largely derived from a sense of adventure and some of what he saw about soldiers in movies as a kid.

“I idolized them,” he says. “I got hooked. So then I started researching about it and I got more into it.”

Romero is one of 11 people who have just written an aptitude test to identify which military occupations prospective recruits are qualified to fill. He pulls his results from the envelope: intelligence officer, meteorological technician and cook.

He will now talk it over with his parents to decide which career interests him, whether he wants to write the test again or abandon the whole exercise.

Canada’s military is supposed to be in a period of growth as new demands increase the need for trained soldiers, sailors and aviators. The Liberal government in 2017 laid out a plan to add thousands of full and part-time positions.

While the plan came after years of troop shortages, there were signs the military was turning a corner as recruitment began to outpace departures.

“We were just starting to gain momentum when the pandemic hit,” says Brig.-Gen. Krista Brodie, who is responsible for overseeing military recruitment and training.

Recruitment cratered during the first year of COVID-19 as the military shuttered recruiting and training centres. The result: only 2,000 people were enrolled in 2020-21 — less than half of what was needed.

Nearly 4,800 recruits were enrolled the following fiscal year as lockdowns and restrictions were eased.

But Brodie says the military is getting about half the number of applicants it needs per month to meet the goal of adding 5,900 members this year.

The shortfall is expected to exacerbate the current personnel shortage, with about one in 10 of the military’s 100,000 positions unfilled.

“We are without a doubt in an applicant crisis right now,” Brodie says.

Many industries are facing labour challenges, and Statistics Canada reported record job vacancies in June. But the pandemic and labour shortage have coincided with what Brodie describes as a “cultural reckoning” for the military.

That has been marked by allegations of misconduct against top officers and concerns about a growing disconnect between the military’s makeup and Canadian society as a whole, leading to a push for greater diversity in the ranks.

Those efforts include targeted recruiting of under-represented groups, including women and Indigenous people, and broader moves to create a more inclusive workplace by easing dress rules, which Brodie suggests are bearing fruit.

Still, fewer Canadians are opting for a military career and it is not fully clear why.

“I don’t think we’ve got a good answer anywhere. I think there are so many factors and components and dimensions of the why,” Brodie says.

The Defence Department is trying to better understand the problem, she added. It is also looking at possible solutions such as financial incentives, ways to improve work-life balance, and addressing public perceptions of the military.

Brodie was unable to say whether the push for diversity is hurting more than helping, at least in terms of sheer numbers, by turning off the military’s traditional recruiting pool: young, white men.

“We can’t measure the impact of that right now. It’s too early,” she said. “But to be very, very clear — we want suitable candidates, and suitable candidates are those that first and foremost reflect the values of the Canadian Armed Forces.”

The impact of not having enough new recruits is both short- and long-term, putting additional pressure on current members and meaning there are fewer people who can rise through the ranks and fill leadership roles later.

The shortfall isn’t uniform across the military. Certain occupations have more than enough applicants. But some are facing such severe shortages that signing bonuses of up to $20,000 are being offered in 25 of the military’s approximately 100 trades, including cook, meteorological technician and many navy jobs.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Clark is senior recruiter in Ottawa. In recent weeks, his staff have been at different events such as the Gatineau Airshow and a comic book convention to make their pitch.

“We’re selling the benefits of being in the Canadian Armed Forces,” he says. “The pension, the medical, the dental, the education piece, continuing education, as well as a pretty interesting career where you get to travel around the world, potentially, and get paid to do it.”

Recruiters are given targets to meet, with spots divvied up by trade, as well as minimum targets for female recruits and maximums for men. There is also a high-level push for what the military still refers to as “visible minorities” and Indigenous people.

“Diversity is what we’re after,” Clark says.

Ottawa is unusual in that it is close to meeting its recruiting targets, which Clark attributes to the large number of military families in the capital. But many other places are not, including traditional military communities.

“We’re really seeing even places like Kingston that used to have a huge population of applicants, we’re seeing the well drying out,” says Maj. Simon Rocheleau, who is responsible for managing recruiting efforts across northern and eastern Ontario.

Rocheleau has a number of theories to explain the situation, including the state of the economy, the lack of a major mission like Afghanistan to drive awareness, and concerns about sexual misconduct.

Outside the Ottawa recruiting centre, Jeremy Langlois has just finished the aptitude test. The 21-year-old chef wants to fly jets, but didn’t score high enough. He will take the test again in 30 days in the hopes of qualifying.

“If that doesn’t work out, well, then I’ll have to re-evaluate and think about stuff,” he says.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2022.

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