British Columbians are expressing their grief and offering their condolences as the world the mourns the death of the longest-reigning monarch in British history.
Queen Elizabeth II died Thursday at the age of 96, surrounded by members of the Royal Family at her Scottish residence, Balmoral Castle. She ruled for seven decades.
“Her presence touched entire generations of Canadian families, who watched her grow from the teenage Princess who trained as a mechanic with the Auxiliary Territorial Service during WWII, to the young Queen who charmed crowds on her many tours throughout the country, to a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother many times over,” said Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin in a statement.
The Queen, who was Canada’s head of state, celebrated her Platinum Jubilee this year.
Flags flew at half-mast in Victoria on Thursday as a mark of respect, and on municipal properties, will remain at half-mast until sunset on the day of the Queen’s funeral and memorial service. Visitors to the B.C. legislature paused in front of a portrait of Her Majesty to take photos and reflect.
Queen Elizabeth visited British Columbia seven times over the course of 22 visits to Canada, making stops in communities from Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert. When the province was devastated by floods in November last year, she issued a statement of support and thanked first responders.
She was a patron of the Royal BC Museum and supported the conservation of the stunning Great Bear Rainforest through the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy, a network of forest conservation programs through 54 Commonwealth countries.
Austin said the impact of her reign cannot be understated, representing the “end of an era defined by its longevity and her ceaseless service.”
In a written statement, Premier John Horgan said the Queen held “a special place in her heart for British Columbia,” and brought its residents together with “common purpose” on each visit.
“At every opportunity, Queen Elizabeth II made time for people, especially children,” he wrote.
“For the tens of thousands of people who came out to see the Queen as she travelled to communities throughout B.C., these moments will be cherished for a lifetime.”
The Queen joined British Columbians for the province’s 100th anniversary celebrations in the 70s, granted the province its coat of arms in the 80s, and opened the Commonwealth Games in B.C. in the 90s, Horgan added.
The Queen also dropped the puck at a Vancouver Canucks game 20 years ago — a moment Official Opposition BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon said he remembers well.
“The joy she took in participating in the ceremonial puck drop at GM Place alongside Wayne Gretzky in 2002 made an unforgettable and lasting impression on me,” Falcon wrote Thursday, adding that he was honoured to have met her at that time.
“She leaves behind a legacy of special moments such as that, as well as playing a significant role in major events around the world throughout her more than 70-year reign.”
Several events were suspended in B.C. on Thursday out of respect for the Queen and the Royal Family.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancelled an affordability announcement at the Liberal cabinet retreat in Vancouver, using the time instead to address the Queen’s passing.
“She was a constant presence in our lives — and her service to Canadians will forever remain a part of our country’s history,” he tweeted.
In a subsequent statement to reporters, he said the Queen would often proclaim, “It’s good to be home,” when returning to Canada.
“She was indeed at home here and Canadians never ceased to return her affection,” Trudeau said.
In Surrey, mayoral candidate Gordie Hogg suspended his Surrey First party’s campaigning for the day, calling Her Majesty an “example of selfless service” and a role model for politicians at every level of government.
“Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years as Canada’s constitutional head of state spanned generations and dramatic changes in society here at home and around the world,” said Hogg, a former MLA and MP.
“Throughout those seven decades and all those changes, Her Majesty provided continuity and stability, even as she reshaped the monarchy for modern times.”
Fellow mayoral candidate Jinny Sims, who met the Queen, also offered condolences to the Royal Family. Sims is a recipient of the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
“Queen Elizabeth was more than a symbolic leader of the Commonwealth; she was a woman who stood strong in a world dominated by men,” Sims said in a statement.
“It is not the awards I will remember – it is her quiet grace, her strong presence, and her calm demeanor. She will long be remembered.”
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum extended “deepest condolences” as well, calling the Queen a “constant and steadying presence.”
Meanwhile, the Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Vancouver invited members of the public to visit its sanctuary until 4 p.m. on Thursday and “take a quiet moment” to remember the Queen. It has made a book of remembrance available to guests.
“May she rest in peace and rise in glory,” it tweeted.
British Columbians can also sign a book of condolences at Government House in Victoria and the Vancouver Law Courts building.
Elizabeth II leaves behind her children, Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward, eight grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren. Britain’s new monarch, King Charles III, is expected to address the nation on Friday.