‘Like losing a member of my family’: Montrealers gather for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral

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Montrealers gather for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral
Montrealers too gathered to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth. British expats as well as others rose early and met at a pub to view the funeral. As Global's Phil Carpenter reports, for them it was important to be with others and to mourn – Sep 19, 2022

In the early hours of a dark and rainy morning, Montrealers made their way to a local English pub to watch Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral service.

The proceedings to pay tribute to Canada’s longest-serving head of state come after she died at the age of 96 on Sept. 8. There were 10 days of mourning that followed.

Justine Bell is one of dozens who gathered at Burgundy Lion on Monday morning to be with others for the occasion, rather than watching it in her kitchen, she said. The longest-reigning monarch in British history has been a constant throughout her life.

“It’s a huge historic moment and I wanted to share it with people.”

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Burgundy Lion co-owner Paul Desbaillets explained that they wanted to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s life and allow those mourning to be with one another to grieve. The restaurant, a mainstay on Notre-Dame Street, had an offering of coffee, tea and scones for those who walked through the door.

“This is about bringing people together and doing it in a matter of respect to sort of a larger-than-life character, the queen,” he said.

The gathering itself was mixed, bringing together people of all ages and some with roots in the United Kingdom to watch the funeral from across the pond. The mood was sombre and reflective, but mourners also saw it as a celebration of a legacy’s life.

“I think (the queen) was genuinely a good person,” Sally Beaumont said from her seat. “I think people — there is not that many good people who are heads of state — so I think people were willing to to turn out and celebrate the kind of person that she was.”

Royal Canadian Air Force warrant officer Jason Moldovan felt compelled to show up in uniform. His grandfather, like Queen Elizabeth, served in the Second World War.

“It’s like losing a member of my family,” Moldovan said.

Not everyone who came to witness the event is in favour of the British monarchy. It’s no secret either that Quebecers have a complicated relationship with it.

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The queen’s death has raised questions about whether the province should now eliminate the position of lieutenant governor. While Queen Elizabeth may be respected, historians say the monarchy also brings up memories of the British conquest of New France and British colonial rule over French-speaking Canada.

People watch the funeral of Queen Elizabeth at the Burgundy Lion pub in Montreal, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, died Thursday Sept. 8, 2022, after 70 years on the throne. She was 96. Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

“Being in this province, most of my friends are francophone and they have a little more skeptical of an opinion than I do … but most people recognize the service she did, her entire lifetime of service,” Bell said.

“I feel like she was arbitrarily given this power and she decided to use it for good.”

Shaharyar Ahmed wanted to see what the funeral would be like and came to pay his respects. But he says he believes people from both sides of the debate about the monarchy need to listen more to one another.

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“Because from the anti-monarchists they don’t acknowledge the things that the monarchy has accomplished,” he said. “However, from the monarchists they don’t acknowledge the atrocities that they’ve seen as well.”

Those who rose in the wee hours to head to Burgundy Lion say they were glad they took time to say goodbye to Queen Elizabeth.

For Bell, it gave her a sense of closure.

“I thought it was a very beautiful ceremony. I was very glad to have come,” she said.

with files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez and The Canadian Press


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