Mr. Speaker, today Canadians join Her Majesty the Queen, members of the royal family, citizens of the Commonwealth and people around the world in mourning the loss of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. This sad occasion gives us an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate a life given in the service of others.
His Royal Highness's life of service began when he joined the Royal Navy just before the start of the Second World War. An accomplished naval officer who was recognized for his bravery, the Duke of Edinburgh's contribution to the women and men of the armed forces of the United Kingdom, Canada and other realms would continue for 70 years after the end of the war. His relationship with the Canadian Armed Forces, and particularly his service as Colonel-in-Chief, was an enduring one. It was so enduring, in fact, that in recognition of his unwavering support His Royal Highness was appointed honorary general of the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force, as well as honorary admiral of the Royal Canadian Navy.
From his first visit to Canada with Princess Elizabeth in 1951, the Duke of Edinburgh made connections across the country. He was there for some of our most important milestones, including our centennial celebrations and the proclamation of the Constitution Act, 1982.
In every province and territory, His Royal Highness had the pleasure of meeting Canadians from every corner of our vast country over the course of his 60 visits to Canada. His deep commitment to Canada was even recognized when he was named the first extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada. He served as patron or president of nearly 800 organizations, more than 40 of which were in Canada. These organizations reflected his interest in science and technology research, environmental conservation, and most notably his love of sports and dedication to young people.
The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award, a program he founded in 1956, embodies his desire to help young people succeed. The award is a personal challenge that is tailored to the interests and abilities of each participant. The program is not meant to be competitive. Instead, it seeks to develop youths' skills and perseverance and helps set goals to achieve them. The Duke of Edinburgh wanted a program that was accessible to all regardless of the background of the participants. The award has challenged, empowered and recognized millions of young people around the world and has left them better prepared to succeed. Since 1963, more than half a million Canadians have benefited from the program. The award program alone would qualify as a most important legacy.
However, when we think of the Duke of Edinburgh's legacy of service, we of course remember His Royal Highness for his decades of devotion to Her Majesty our Queen. The longest-serving consort attended tens of thousands of official engagements, either with Her Majesty or on her behalf. He was a participant in, and a witness to, the great progress we have made as a country over the course of Her Majesty's reign. In fact, one of his last public events was to attend Canada 150 celebrations at Canada House in the United Kingdom in 2017, where former governor general Johnston presented the Queen with a Sapphire Jubilee gift on behalf of all Canadians.
The Interim Clerk of the Privy Council, Janice Charette, recently spoke to me fondly about his Royal Highness's visit to Canada House at that time, when she was our high commissioner. Even after retiring from public duties at the age of 96, his Royal Highness continued to be an important figure for the royal family and particularly for Her Majesty the Queen, who described him as her “strength and stay all these years”.
I hope his memory will encourage more of us to serve our community in whatever capacity we can, that it will remind us we all gain when we help others realize their full potential, that providing opportunities in the most inclusive way possible brings us together, that we must support our youth to ensure their success, that when our country calls, we should be ready to serve, and that in times of joy and sorrow, we must be there for our families.
On Saturday, Canadians will have the opportunity to remember His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh at a commemorative ceremony to be held in Ottawa.
Although we will not be able to gather in person, this will be an opportunity to remember a remarkable person who reminds us of what it means to serve. It will also be the last opportunity for Canadians to express their deep sadness.
As we mourn the loss of this public figure, we should remember that the Duke of Edinburgh was a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. We acknowledge the profound loss felt today by Her Majesty the Queen and members of the royal family.
To the Queen, I respectfully express my deep sympathy for her loss. We share in her sorrow. It is my sincere hope that Her Majesty will take comfort in the knowledge that His Royal Highness inspired generations of young people in Canada and around the world to reach their full potential, achieve excellence and give their lives in service to others. Through his tireless work, he has forever earned our respect and admiration.
As Her Majesty the Queen best expressed, we “owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.”