John Turner's dedication recognized at his funeral [VIDEO]
Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police carried John Turner's coffin to his funeral in Toronto on Tuesday.
Share October 6, 2020 3:03 pm Share John Turner's dedication hailed at his funeral [VIDEO] Colin Perkel The Canadian Press TORONTO – Former Prime Minister John Turner was described at a state funeral Tuesday as a gifted politician with of a strong social conscience and having spent decades serving his fellow citizens.
A group of 170 bereaved people – including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – were on site at Saint-Michel's Cathedral-Basilica for the television service, ahead of a private burial.
John Turner, Canada's 17th Prime Minister, passed away peacefully at his home on September 19, his family said. He was 91 years old.
“Today, more than ever, we need more people like John,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told those gathered. “His legacy calls us not to wait for change to happen, but to stand up and build a better country for all.”
The newly renovated cathedral has a capacity of 1,600 people, but concerns over the spread of COVID-19 have prompted organizers to limit the guest list. Many of those present wore black masks and were spaced apart to maintain physical distance.
Under the sunlight filtering through the stained glass windows, Mr Turner's daughter, Elizabeth Turner, praised her father as a devoted politician and public servant who, despite the demands of public life, did never failed to devote time to his family.
Nicknamed “Canada's Kennedy” when he arrived in Ottawa in the 1960s, athlete John Turner eventually represented three provinces as a Liberal MP. He served as Solicitor General and Minister of Justice and Finance in various cabinets before his brief 79-day stint as Prime Minister in 1984.
Born in England in 1929, John Napier Wyndham Turner moved to Canada in 1932 after the untimely death of his father. An Olympic-caliber racing champion, he completed his graduate studies in law.
Mr. Turner first entered politics in 1962 when he won a seat in the Quebec riding of Saint-Laurent-Saint-Georges.
“Democracy does not happen by accident,” he would have often repeated, according to his family.
In 1965, then Prime Minister Lester Pearson appointed Mr. Turner to cabinet, two years before Justin Trudeau's father, Pierre Trudeau, and another future prime minister, Jean Chrétien, landed cabinet positions. .
Mr Turner entered the race to succeed Mr Pearson in 1968, but lost to Pierre Trudeau, who appointed him Minister of Justice, a post he used to help create the Federal Court .
He defended martial law and the suspension of civil liberties during the October 1970 crisis, but also the decriminalization of homosexuality and abortion in the 1960s.
He also saved then opposition leader John Diefenbaker from drowning while on vacation in Barbados.
Mr. Turner married his wife, Geills McCrae Kilgour, great-niece of Colonel John McCrae who wrote the poem “In Flanders Field”, in 1963. The couple had a daughter, Elizabeth, and three sons, Michael, David and Andrew.
After leaving politics in 1976, the outdoor enthusiast spent nearly a decade as a corporate lawyer on Bay Street before returning to politics after Pierre Trudeau resigned. Mr. Turner won the Liberal leadership race in 1984 against Jean Chrétien in a bitterly divided vote.
Mr. Turner, who opposed free trade with the United States, called an election nine days after being sworn in as prime minister. The ill-prepared and divided party did not measure up to Brian Mulroney and his Progressive Conservatives.
John Turner resigned as party leader in 1990 and left politics three years later to join a Toronto law firm.
Despite declining health, he was a mainstay of many liberal events. He gave speeches reminding the party of its golden years, interspersed with incredible stories about life in politics.
State funeral for John Turner / State funeral of John Turner CPAC