Albertans pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II at sombre ceremony

Several hundred people gathered at the legislature Monday for a memorial service to honour the Queen, who died on Sept. 8 at age 96 after a 70-year reign.

Hundreds attended memorial service at Alberta Legislature

Tama Vea, centre, and Dave Ainsworth were among people who came to a ceremony at the Alberta Legislature on Monday to pay respects to Queen Elizabeth II. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC)

Dave Ainsworth once reported for duty as a Queen's guard, sworn to protect the monarch in England.

Now living 7,000 kilometres away in Edmonton, a trip to the Alberta Legislature on Monday to remember Queen Elizabeth II was the best local option to pay his respects.

"I'm lucky enough to have served my monarch," he said, the booms of a 96-gun salute echoing beside him. "And one of the biggest things I always loved about Canada and serving with the Canadian forces, is they were always quick to remind me, it's their monarch, too."

Several hundred people gathered at the legislature Monday for a memorial service to honour the Queen, who died on Sept. 8 at age 96 after a 70-year reign.

Music was featured throughout the ceremony, led by the Royal Canadian Artillery Band. As bagpiper Major James Perry played a lament, rain began to drizzle down. Edmonton's Greenwood Singers performed the hymns The Lord is My Shepherd and I Vow to Thee My Country.

Spectators gather in front of the Alberta Legislature building on Monday for a memorial service for Queen Elizabeth II. (Janet French/CBC)

Both Premier Jason Kenney and spectators remarked how mourning the Queen has brought people together in their shared admiration.

"It was a shared love, and all you have to do is look around today in a time where all we see is division, anger, protest," Ainsworth said. "We look around at the diversity that's here today."

Anne Blackburn drove to Edmonton from Olds to participate in the ceremony. Her blue-green eyes filled with tears as she recalled how Queen Elizabeth witnessed, and was a steady presence, through so much history and societal change.

Her friend Elisabeth Schmitt-Jackson, of Edmonton, said she wants people to remember the Queen's steadfast service to not only her country, but the Royal Family.

"She was a woman of integrity and served her country and served the world in so many respects," Schmitt-Jackson said. "That dedication has to be honoured."

The Alberta Legislature hosted a memorial service on Monday for Queen Elizabeth II. (Janet French/CBC)

The ceremony also included remarks from provincial political leaders, prayers from an Indigenous elder, the Anglican Bishop of Edmonton, and the Catholic Archbishop of Edmonton.

Dean Manywounds, from the Tsuut'ina First Nation, recalled his grandfather's friendship with the Queen. Ralph Steinhauer was appointed Alberta's lieutenant governor on July 2, 1974, making him the first Indigenous person to serve in that role. They both believed in a strong work ethic, he said.

Other mourners said they're still in disbelief that the Queen is gone, and that her passing was like losing a member of their family.

Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani, the Crown's representative in Alberta, recalled the Queen's devotion to Canada, and how she saw the country as home.

"Your Majesty, we will truly miss you," Lakhani said. "Though you are no longer with us physically, your extraordinary legacy will continue to shine through in our community, and inspire people mourning your loss."


Janet French

Provincial affairs reporter

Janet French covers the Alberta Legislature for CBC Edmonton. She previously spent 15 years working at newspapers, including the Edmonton Journal and Saskatoon StarPhoenix. You can reach her at janet.french@cbc.ca.

With files from Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi