Tributes flow for John Turner as former PM honoured in scaled-back state funeral


Tributes are flowing for John Turner as family, friends and dignitaries gather for a state funeral for the former prime minister. 

In a scaled-back state funeral in Toronto, they recalled a loyal friend and principled politician.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Turner a “great Canadian” and said Turner tirelessly fought to protect the environment and to advance a more just Canada.

He recalled how Turner said that democracy doesn’t happen by accident.

“He knew we could rise to any challenge, and meet any moment — if we believed in one another and stood together,” he said.

“Today, more than ever, we need people like John. His legacy calls on us to not wait for change to happen, but to stand up and build a better country for everyone.”

Former governor general David Johnston called Turner a man of “integrity, civility and practicality.”

Former Progressive Conservative prime minister and cabinet minister Kim Campbell said she didn’t always agree with Turner, but she always respected him. Calling him a remarkable Canadian, she said he had a decency about him that was widely admired.

Former Liberal cabinet minister Ralph Goodale called Turner a “wonderful friend” who was always helpful. He recalled how Turner kept track of his friends’ birthdays and would call them with best wishes on their special day.

“That loyalty is one thing a lot of people will remember John for,” he said.

Turner is being honoured with the scaled-back event featuring measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

CBC is broadcasting special live coverage of it, hosted by Rosemary Barton, which began at 10 a.m. ET on CBC News Network,, CBC Gem, the CBC News app YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Trudeau and Turner’s daughter, Elizabeth Turner, will be among those delivering addresses at a church service at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica. Public health protocols, including mask wearing, sanitizing and physical distancing, will be followed.

There will be no public lying-in-state for public viewing and the church service is by invitation only.

St. Michael’s can hold up to 1,600 people. Because of pandemic restrictions, however, only about 160 guests, chosen by the former prime minister’s family, have been invited to Turner’s funeral. The burial will take place in private and no reception will follow the church service.

John McDermott sang Amazing Grace as guests entered with staggered arrivals, but the service did not include congregational singing due to COVID-19 protocols.

The family has asked that, instead of flowers, donations be made to the World Wildlife Fund Canada and the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation.

Past state funerals have included public processions in the streets of Ottawa and periods of lying in state — usually in Parliament — to give Canadians an opportunity to pay their final respects.

State funerals are rare. Only 31 state funerals have been held in Canada since Confederation in 1867, including 12 for prime ministers, seven for governors general and eight for cabinet ministers.

The last state funeral for a Canadian prime minister was for Pierre Trudeau in 2000.

Three other members of Parliament have been given state funerals: the assassinated Thomas D’Arcy McGee in 1868 and, more recently, NDP leader Jack Layton and former finance minister Jim Flaherty.

The government announced the national flags on the Peace Tower and all federal buildings and establishments in Canada will fly at half-mast to honour Turner’s memory. Flags will be at half-mast until the sunset on the day of his funeral.



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