In our lives, we all have those moments when we remember where we were when we first heard about significant events.
I was at the Kelowna International Airport the morning of Sept. 8, having just gone through security, when I noticed a missed call from a member of my team and then a text message to tell me the news: Her Majesty Elizabeth II, our Queen and head of state since 1952, sadly passed away.
As I walked through the airport, I heard whispers as others learned the breaking news.
It was only the day before, on Sept. 7, in Kelowna, that I hosted a Queen’s Jubilee Pin and Local Recognition Service Medallion Ceremony. The Canadian Platinum Jubilee emblem was created to mark the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne, a historic milestone in the enduring relationship between Canada and the Crown.
At the end of our ceremony, we finished by standing and singing “Oh Canada” and “God Save the Queen”. Little did we know then that it would likely be the last time “God Save the Queen” would be played in our community.
For most in Kelowna-Lake Country, we have never known a Canada without the Queen. The first official rendition of “God Save the King” after the Queen’s passing was sung at the end of a memorial service for Queen Elizabeth II at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London on Sept. 9.
Through seven decades and 12 Canadian prime ministers, she represented an island in the stream of our ever-changing culture and history. She represented the eternal values of dutiful service, quiet strength and genuine kindness. She talked about the importance to her of faith, family and friendship.
I spoke with Bob Hayes, former President of the Kelowna Branch of the Okanagan Historical Society, who was at the event when the Queen came to Kelowna on May 6, 1971.
He recalled how, in Kelowna’s City Park, there were very large wooden stands which were a regular fixture there at that time, and more were added for the event. Viewers could tell when the Queen arrived, as they could see her cavalcade coming across the Okanagan Lake Bridge into Kelowna.
The Queen made a brief speech to the large crowd and then took time to walk around speaking to people.
In 1983, the Queen landed at the Kelowna International Airport while on another British Columbia visit.
Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Canada officially entered a “national period of mourning,” which lasts for 10 days. Flags are flown at half mast and there are a number of procedures and ceremonies that are to be followed.
The House of Commons is being recalled early so Members of Parliament have the opportunity to present a tribute to the (late) Queen in the House of Commons, and I’ll be doing so on behalf of Kelowna-Lake Country.
The federal government announced a National Day of Mourning on Sept. 19, and some provinces have also announced additional measures on this day. I will attend the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Ottawa at Christ Church Cathedral.
God Save the King.
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