Former prime minister John Turner to be honoured with state funeral Oct. 6

A state funeral will be held on Oct. 6 to honour former prime minister John Turner, who died on Sept. 19 at the age of 91.

Toronto church service will be private and there will be no lying in state

Former prime minister John Turner died Sept. 19 at the age of 91 (Canadian Press)

A state funeral will be held on Oct. 6 to honour former prime minister John Turner, who died on Sept. 19 at the age of 91.

A statement from Canadian Heritage explained that there will be a church service at St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica in Toronto that will strictly follow public health protocols including mask wearing, sanitizing and physical distancing. 

"The church service is by invitation only. At the request of the family, there will be no public lying in state or lying in repose," the statement said. 

St. Michael's can hold up to 1,600 people but, because of the pandemic, only a limited number of guests will be invited and they are being selected by the former prime minister's family. The burial will take place in private, and no reception will follow the church service.

The family has asked that instead of flowers, donations be made to the World Wildlife Fund Canada and the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation.

Canadians are invited to share their messages of sympathy in the online book of condolences.

State funerals are rare. According to the federal government, only 31 state funerals have been held in Canada since Confederation in 1867, including 12 for prime ministers, seven for governors general and eight for cabinet ministers.

Three other members of Parliament have been given state funerals: the assassinated Thomas D'Arcy McGee in 1868 and, more recently, NDP leader Jack Layton and former finance minister Jim Flaherty.

The government announced the national flags on the Peace Tower and all federal buildings and establishments in Canada will fly at half-mast to honour Turner's memory. Flags will be at half-mast until the sunset on the day of his funeral.

Unlike Turner's funeral, state funerals have often included public processions in the streets of Ottawa and periods of lying in state, usually in Parliament, to give an opportunity for Canadians to pay final respects. The last state funeral for a Canadian prime minister was for Pierre Trudeau in 2000.

With files from The Canadian Press