State Funerals in Canada
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State Funerals in Canada

The remains of John A. Macdonald lying in state in the Senate Chamber, 1891

State funerals in Canada are public events held to commemorate former governors general, prime ministers, members of the Cabinet who died in office, and, at the Cabinet's discretion, other eminent Canadians. With ceremonial, military, and religious elements incorporated, state funerals are offered and executed by the Governor General-in-Council, who provides a dignified manner for the Canadian people to mourn a national public figure. Provincial and territorial governments may also perform state funerals for citizens in their particular jurisdictions; however, most state funerals are federal affairs.


State funerals are not required by any law and the family of the deceased may opt not to have such an event take place. Should the family agree to a state funeral, the Department of Canadian Heritage (DCH) will work in close consultation with them, as well as other government departments and elements of the private sector, the degree of involvement depending on the size and complexity of the event. Similarly, the timeline varies on a case by case basis, most lasting between five and six days, during which the national flag is flown at half-mast on the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and at other federal Crown-owned installations across the country.

The funeral train of Sir John A. Macdonald carrying his remains on 10 June 1891 from Ottawa to Kingston, Ontario

A formal statement issued by the Governor General-in-Council is typically broadcast by the media to notify the general public of an upcoming state funeral, while the DCH issues invitations according to the Order of Precedence, with foreign heads of state and government included.[1] Meanwhile, in the days leading up to the funeral, the body is transported from the place of death to Ottawa, whereupon the casket is met by a guard of honour--drawn from the Governor General's Foot Guards for a former governor general and from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for a former prime minister and other ministers or honoured individuals--and escorted by it to the Centre Block of the parliament buildings. There, the remains lie in state for a period of two days, with four members of the accordant guard of honour maintaining a constant vigil; for the remains of governors general, this takes place in the Senate chamber, in the Hall of Honour for those of prime ministers, and in other rooms for other individuals. On both days, designated hours are set for public viewing. The coffin is then escorted from the Centre Block to a waiting hearse as a gun salute is fired; 21 guns for a governor general, 19 guns for a prime minister, and 15 guns for others. The casket is then either transported to another location in the country for further memorials or to the place of burial.

State funeral memorial services are typically held in churches. The choice of host church is dependent on the religious faith of the deceased. However, since 1968, all state funerals held in Ottawa have included a service at the Anglican Church of Canada's Christ Church Cathedral; its five state funerals are the most of any venue. Three other churches have hosted two state funerals: All Saints Anglican Church, Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica, and St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, all in Ottawa. The state funeral of Jack Layton, held in 2011 at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, is the only Canadian state funeral to have been held outside of a church.

Similar to a state funeral is a commemoration ceremony, which is a religious or memorial service to mark the passing of an individual from a family that did not wish a state funeral or did not reside in Canada. For instance, a commemoration ceremony was held in Ottawa in 2002 for the death of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and in 2013 for Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa; nevertheless, these commemorations may be classified as state funerals by the Canadian government.[2]

Not all who lie in state at parliament, nor all for whom flags are flown at half-mast, receive a state funeral. The exception was made for the funeral of Retired Sergeant Ernest Smith, the last living Canadian recipient of the Victoria Cross from the Second World War.


The funeral procession of Thomas D'Arcy McGee in Montreal, 1868

The first state funeral in Canada was held for Thomas D'Arcy McGee after his assassination in April 1868.[3] The first Governor General of Canada to receive a state funeral was Lord Tweedsmuir in 1940, who died in office. Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister was also the first to receive a state funeral. Jack Layton was the first Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition who was not also a former prime minister to be honoured with a state funeral;[4] after lying in state in the foyer of the House of Commons, the funeral service took place at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto.

List of state funerals in Canada

Canadian state funerals
State position Name Date of funeral Place of funeral Venue Sources
Cabinet minister Thomas D'Arcy McGee 1868 Ottawa, Ontario St. Patrick's Bascilica [5][6][7]
Prime minister John A. Macdonald 1891 Ottawa, Ontario St. Alban's Anglican Church [8][9]
Prime minister Alexander Mackenzie 1892 Toronto, Ontario Jarvis Street Baptist Church [10]
Prime minister John Abbott 1893 Montreal, Quebec Christ Church Cathedral [11]
Prime minister John Sparrow David Thompson 1895 Halifax, Nova Scotia St. Mary's Basilica [12][13]
Prime minister Charles Tupper 1915 Halifax, Nova Scotia St. Paul's Anglican Church [14]
Prime minister Mackenzie Bowell 1917 Belleville, Ontario Bridge Street Methodist Church [15]
Prime minister Wilfrid Laurier 1919 Ottawa, Ontario Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica [16][17][18]
Cabinet minister James Robb 1929 Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec Valleyfield United Church [19]
Cabinet minister George Eulas Foster 1932 Ottawa, Ontario Chalmers United Church [20]
Prime minister Robert Borden 1937 Ottawa, Ontario All Saints Anglican Church [21]
Cabinet minister George Halsey Perley 1938 Ottawa, Ontario All Saints Anglican Church [22]
Governor general The Lord Tweedsmuir 1940 Ottawa, Ontario St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
Cabinet minister Ernest Lapointe 1941 Quebec City, Quebec Saint-Roch Church [23][24]
Cabinet minister Raoul Dandurand 1942 Montreal, Quebec Église Saint-Viateur d'Outremont [25]
Prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King 1950 Ottawa, Ontario St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
Cabinet minister Humphrey Mitchell 1950 Ottawa, Ontario St. Barnabas, Apostle and Martyr Anglican Church [26]
Cabinet minister Alcide Côté 1955 Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec Cathedral of Saint-Jean-l'Évangéliste [27][28]
Prime minister Arthur Meighen 1960 Toronto, Ontario St. Andrew's United Church
Cabinet minister Jack Garland 1964 North Bay, Ontario St. Andrew's United Church [29]
Governor general Georges Vanier 1967 Ottawa, Ontario Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica
Governor general Vincent Massey 1968 Ottawa, Ontario Christ Church Cathedral [30]
Prime minister Lester B. Pearson 1972 Ottawa, Ontario Christ Church Cathedral
Prime minister Louis St. Laurent 1973 Quebec City, Quebec Notre-Dame de Québec Cathedral
Prime minister John Diefenbaker 1979 Ottawa, Ontario Christ Church Cathedral [31]
Governor general Jules Léger 1980 Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec Basilique-Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile [32][33]
Cabinet minister Daniel J. MacDonald 1980 Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island St. Dunstan's Basilica [34][35]
Governor general Roland Michener 1991 Ottawa, Ontario Christ Church Cathedral [36]
Governor general Jeanne Sauvé 1993 Montreal, Quebec Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral [37]
Prime minister Pierre Trudeau 2000 Montreal, Quebec Notre-Dame Basilica [34]
Governor general Ray Hnatyshyn 2002 Ottawa, Ontario Christ Church Cathedral
Governor general Roméo LeBlanc 2009 Memramcook, New Brunswick Saint-Thomas de Memramcook Church [34][38][39]
Leader of the Opposition Jack Layton 2011 Toronto, Ontario Roy Thomson Hall
Cabinet minister Jim Flaherty 2014 Toronto, Ontario St. James Cathedral [40][41][42]
  • According to some sources Alexander Mackenzie did not have a state funeral.[43][44]
  • McGee, Foster, Perley, and Flaherty were not sitting cabinet ministers at the times of their deaths.
  • Sidney Smith, External Affairs Minister, qualified for a state funeral in 1959, but did not receive one.[45]
  • A state funeral was offered for assassinated Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte in 1970 but his widow declined.[46]
  • A state funeral was offered for Chief Justice Bora Laskin by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau but his family declined.[47]
National Commemoration Ceremonies
State position Name Date of ceremony Place of ceremony Building Sources
Queen consort Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother 2002 Ottawa, Ontario Christ Church Cathedral [2]
President of South Africa Nelson Mandela 2013 Ottawa, Ontario Parkdale United Church [2][48]

List of provincial state funerals in Canada


State position Name Date of funeral Place of funeral Building Sources
Lieutenant-Governor Dr. J. W. Grant MacEwan 2000 Edmonton Robertson-Wesley United Church [49]
Premier Peter Lougheed 2012 Edmonton Alberta Legislature [50]
Premier Jim Prentice 2016 Calgary Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium [51]


State position Name Date of funeral Place of funeral Building Sources
Lieutenant governor Lincoln Alexander 2012 Hamilton Hamilton Place Theatre [52]
Premier John Robarts 1982 Toronto St. Paul's Anglican Church [53][54]


State funerals in Quebec are reserved for former premiers. "National" funerals may be held for other distinguished Quebecers. Unlike state funerals, these are only partially subsidized by the government.[55]

State position Name Date of funeral Place of funeral Building Sources
Premier Maurice Duplessis 1959 Trois-Rivières De l'Assomption (Immaculée-Conception) Cathedral [56][57]
Premier Daniel Johnson Sr. 1968 Quebec City Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec [58][59]
Premier Jean Lesage 1980 Quebec City Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec [60][61]
Premier René Lévesque 1987 Quebec City Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec [62]
Premier Robert Bourassa 1996 Montreal Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal [63]
Premier Jacques Parizeau 2015 Montreal Église Saint-Germain [64]
Premier Bernard Landry 2018 Montreal Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal [65]

National funerals

Occupation Name Date of funeral Place of funeral Building Sources
Athlete Maurice Richard 2000 Montreal Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal [66]
Union leader Louis Laberge 2002 Montreal Basilique Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde [67]
Athlete Jean Béliveau 2014 Montréal Basilique Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde [68]
Music producer and agent René Angélil 2016 Montreal Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal

See also


  1. ^ Government of Canada (26 June 2009). "Frequently Asked Questions on State Funerals in Canada". Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "Past state funerals". Government of Canada. Government of Canada. Retrieved 2016.
  3. ^ Ciarula, Lesley (23 August 2011), "State funeral for Layton in Toronto on Saturday", Toronto Star, retrieved 2011
  4. ^ "State Funerals in Canada > Past State Funerals". Queen's Printer for Canada. Archived from the original on 27 August 2011. Retrieved 2011.
  5. ^ "THOMAS D'ARCY McGEE.; Funeral Services at Ottawa--Thirty Thousand People in Procession" (PDF). The New York Times. New York NY. 14 April 1868. Retrieved 2011.
  6. ^ Collections Canada (2 May 2005). "THOMAS D'ARCY McGEE". Retrieved 2011.
  7. ^ Government of Canada (24 August 2011). "State Funerals in Canada". Archived from the original on 27 August 2011. Retrieved 2011.
  8. ^ Francess G. Halpenny. "Dictionary of Canadian Biography". p. 611. Retrieved 2016.
  9. ^ "ARCHIVED - Afterwards-First Among Equals". Retrieved 2016.
  10. ^ Sir George William Ross, William Buckingham (1892). The Hon. Alexander Mackenzie: His Life and Times. Rose Publishing Company. p. 641.
  11. ^ "Biography - ABBOTT, Sir JOHN JOSEPH CALDWELL - Volume XII (1891-1900) - Dictionary of Canadian Biography". Retrieved 2016.
  12. ^ P.B. Waite. "Sir John Sparrow David Thompson - The Canadian Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2016.
  13. ^ "THE STATE FUNERAL: Burial of Sir John Thompson at Halifax SCENES OF THE GREAT EVENT Conveyance of the Remains to Canada Ceremonies at Halifox in Connection With the Interment of the Late Premier THE LEADING FACTS RECALLED REMOVAL OF THE BODY ARRIVAL AT HALIFAX". The Globe (Toronto). 26 January 1895.
  14. ^ "Interred in Solemn State: Leading Notables of Canada Attend Funeral of Sir Charles Tupper at Halifax". The World (Vancouver). 16 November 1915. Retrieved 2016.
  15. ^ The City Of Belleville. "City of Belleville". Retrieved 2016.
  16. ^ "Thousands mourn Laurier" (PDF). The New York Times. New York NY. 23 February 1919. Retrieved 2011.
  17. ^ "State funeral for Sir Wilfred on Saturday". The Washington Reporter. Washington PA. United Press. 18 February 1919. p. 1. Retrieved 2011.
  18. ^ "Sir Wilfrid Laurier's Death". Poverty Bay Herald. Poverty Bay NZ. 18 February 1919. p. 6. Retrieved 2011.
  19. ^ "Sorrow in Valley field As All Citizens Mourn For Finance Minister: Simple Funeral Service for Hon. James A. Robb This Afternoon". The Globe (Toronto). 13 November 1929.
  20. ^ "CANADA'S TRIBUTE PAID TO STATESMAN: Thousands Line Ottawa Streets as Sir George Foster's Funeral Is Held COLLEAGUES DO HONOR". The Globe (Toronto). 4 January 1932.
  21. ^ "Thousands Join in Sorrowful Tribute to Late Sir Robert Borden". Ottawa Citizen. Ottawa ON. 14 June 1937. p. 9. Retrieved 2011.
  22. ^ "Highest Tributes Paid Late Sir Geo. Perley". Ottawa Citizen. 8 January 1938. Retrieved 2016.
  23. ^ Flaherty, Frank (29 November 1941). "Bells Toll Last Lapointe Salute". The Leader-Post. Regina SK. Canadian Press. p. 1. Retrieved 2011.
  24. ^ "A State Funeral For Hon. Ernest Lapointe". The Sherbrooke Telegram. 27 November 1941. Retrieved 2016.
  25. ^ Canadian, Press (16 March 1942). "Crowds Hushed For Dandourand". Calgary Herald. Retrieved 2011.
  26. ^ "Canada Pays Last Tribute To Mitchell". The Windsor Daily Star. Windsor ON. Canadian Press. 4 August 1950. p. 18. Retrieved 2011.
  27. ^ "Canada's Postmaster-General Hon. Alcide Cote, Died Sunday". The Shawinigan Standard. Shawinigan QC. 10 August 1955. p. 2. Retrieved 2011.
  28. ^ "Hon Alcide Cote is Widely Mourned". The News and Eastern Townships Advocate. 11 August 1955. Retrieved 2016.
  29. ^ "PM Leads Mourners: Crowds Line Streets For Garland Funeral". Globe and Mail. 18 March 1964.
  30. ^ "Final Tribute Paid Vincent Massey". The Montreal Gazette. Montreal QC. 5 January 1968. p. 1. Retrieved 2011.
  31. ^ "State funeral set for Diefenbaker". Globe and Mail. 17 August 1979. Retrieved 2016.
  32. ^ Bauch, Hubert (28 November 1980). "Canada pays last respects to Leger". The Montreal Gazette. Montreal QC. p. 1. Retrieved 2011.
  33. ^ "Mourners stand in freezing rain as Leger buried". Montreal Gazette. 29 November 1980. Retrieved 2016.
  34. ^ a b c Government of Canada (26 June 2009). "List of state funerals in Canada". Queen's Printer for Canada. Archived from the original on 27 August 2011. Retrieved 2010.
  35. ^ "The Honourable Daniel J. MacDonald". Veterans Affairs Canada. Government of Canada. Retrieved 2016.
  36. ^ "Michener memorial service attended by PM, dignitaries". Globe and Mail. Canadian Press. 15 August 1991.
  37. ^ Contenta, Sandro (31 January 1993). "1,000 mourn Sauve, a woman of 'firsts'". Toronto Star. Toronto ON. p. A1. Retrieved 2011.
  38. ^ "LeBlanc's rites N.B.'s first state funeral". Times & Transcript. Moncton NB. 4 July 2009. p. A7. Retrieved 2011.
  39. ^ "LeBlanc's state funeral draws thousands - New Brunswick - CBC News". Retrieved 2016.
  40. ^ CBC Alerts on Twitter
  41. ^ "Jim Flaherty to have state funeral Wednesday". Retrieved 2014.
  42. ^ CBC Alerts on Twitter
  43. ^ Francess G. Halpenny. "Dictionary of Canadian Biography". p. 658. Retrieved 2016.
  44. ^ William Buckingham; Sir George William Ross. "The Hon. Alexander Mackenzie: His Life and Times". p. 639. Retrieved 2016.
  45. ^ [1]
  46. ^ MacSween, Joseph (21 October 1970). "A grieving Quebec buries Laporte". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 2011.
  47. ^ "Bora Laskin buried". The Leader-Post. 29 March 1984. Retrieved 2011.
  48. ^ "Senator Don Meredith". Retrieved 2016.
  49. ^ CBC News, CBC News (20 June 2000). "State Funeral for Grant MacEwan". CBC News.
  50. ^ Bennett, Dean (16 September 2012). "Two flags drape Peter Lougheed's coffin as mourners pay respects". The Globe and Mail Inc. The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 16 April 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  51. ^ "State funeral planned for Prentice". iPolitics. iPolitics. 19 October 2016. Archived from the original on 16 April 2019. Retrieved 2019.
  52. ^ Humphreys, Adrian (26 October 2012), "State funeral honours former Ontario lieutenant governor Lincoln Alexander's 'life of firsts'", National Post, retrieved 2012
  53. ^ "Robarts gets state funeral". Ottawa Citizen. 21 October 1982. Retrieved 2011.
  54. ^ "Robarts buried with state honors". Globe and Mail. 22 October 1982.
  55. ^ "René Angélil's 'national' funeral 'over the top,' says Francine Pelletier". CBC. 21 January 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  56. ^ Paulin, Marguerite (2005). Maurice Duplessis: powerbroker, politician. Dundurn Press Ltd. ISBN 1-894852-17-6.
  57. ^ "Duplessis Is Buried In Simple Ceremony". Globe and Mail. 11 September 1959.
  58. ^ "Quebec mourns premier at state funeral". Star-Phoenix. 30 September 1968. Retrieved 2011.
  59. ^ "Thousands pay final tribute: Daniel Johnson buried in simple village ceremony". Globe and Mail. 2 October 1968.
  60. ^ "Quebec bids adieu to Jean Lesage". Calgary Herald. 16 December 1980. Retrieved 2011.
  61. ^ "PM leads mourners at Lesage funeral". Globe and Mail. 16 December 1980.
  62. ^ Burns, John F. (3 November 1987). "René Lévesque, Ex-Premier of Quebec, Dies at 65". New York Times. Retrieved 2011.
  63. ^ "Remembering Bourassa". CBC Digital Archives. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2011.
  64. ^ "Mourners gather for funeral of former premier Jacques Parizeau". Montreal Gazette. 9 June 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  65. ^ Authier, Philip (6 November 2018). "Bernard Landry to be honoured with state funeral". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 2018.
  66. ^ "Rocket to get state funeral". CBC. 28 May 2000. Retrieved 2012.
  67. ^ Thanh Ha, Tu (20 July 2002). "Quebec labour legend will have state funeral". Globe And Mail. Retrieved 2016.
  68. ^ Thompson, Elizabeth (3 December 2014). "Béliveau to get Quebec state funeral". iPolitics. Retrieved 2014.

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