No state funeral for 'great Canadian' Herb Gray

Herb Gray, a former deputy prime minister, will not be given a state funeral, despite some calling for the honour. Gray was one of the longest-serving MPs in Canadian history.

Federal government offering to support Gray's family with planning and logistics of his funeral

Former deputy prime minister Herb Gray died Monday at the age of 82. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Herb Gray, one of Canada's longest-serving parliamentarians and the deputy prime minister for five years, will not be given a state funeral, the government said Tuesday.

Gray died in hospital Monday at the age of 82.

Following his death, admirers of Gray took to social media to ask the same honour be given to him as was given to former federal finance minister Jim Flaherty, who died a couple of weeks ago and was given a state funeral last week. In an interview with a Toronto radio station, former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin said Gray deserved one.​

As well, some people argued on Twitter that as Gray was the first Jewish Canadian cabinet minister, it would be fitting that he be granted Canada's first Jewish state funeral.

But that will not happen, according to the director of communications for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"Mr. Gray was a great Canadian and a tremendous parliamentarian who served with honour and dignity," said Jason MacDonald, in an email to CBC News. "We are offering to support Mr. Gray's family with the planning and logistics of his funeral."

A state funeral is a public event offered and organized by the government of Canada in co-ordination with the family of the deceased. They are typically reserved for present and former governors general, prime ministers and sitting members of cabinet. However, any other eminent Canadian can be offered a state funeral at the discretion of the prime minister. Families can turn them down if they so choose.

Recently, the prime minister exercised that discretion for Flaherty, who had resigned from his post as finance minister in Harper's cabinet only three weeks before he died. Former NDP leader Jack Layton, who died in 2011 shortly after becoming leader of the official opposition, was given a state funeral as well.

Sources close to the Gray family said the family did not request a state funeral, nor was one offered.

Gray was a longtime Liberal MP, first elected in 1962. He held many cabinet positions and was appointed deputy prime minister by former prime minister Jean Chrétien in 1997. He left federal politics in 2002. At the request of Chrétien, Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson gave Gray the title of "Right Honourable" for life.

He was also a Companion of the Order of Canada.

But some have pointed to similarly accomplished Canadians who have also been denied a state funeral. For example, the Rt. Hon. Martial Asselin, who was a former Progressive Conservative MP, senator and lieutenant governor of Quebec, did not have a state funeral when he died in 2013 at the age of 88.

While Gray will not have a state funeral, flags on all federal government buildings in Ottawa were lowered to half-mast Tuesday and will remain that way until sundown on Friday, the day of Gray's funeral. The flag on the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill will be flown at half-mast on Friday as well. 

Gray's funeral will be held at the Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa.

"We're going to have a Jewish funeral in an appropriate way. That doesn't mean there won't be some important people there, but everybody who comes is important in any event," Gray's wife, Sharon Sholzberg-Gray, told CBC News.