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PHOTOS: Saanich Peninsula remembers Queen Elizabeth II with a ceremony in Sidney

Close to 1,000 participate in event organized by Town of Sidney in Beacon Park

A blue canopy of sky unvarnished by clouds covered the nearly 1,000 people who gathered in Sidney’s Beacon Park Monday morning to remember and honour Queen Elizabeth II on the day of her funeral, which had taken place hours earlier in the United Kingdom.

Usually a centre of activity during the summer, the park was unusually quiet mere minutes before the arrival of a procession consisting of a colour guard, a pipe band and a small cadre of local dignitaries as part of the event organized by the Town of Sidney.

Sidney’s town crier Kenny Podmore led the march from just outside the Sidney Pier Hotel and Spa on First Street down Beacon Avenue toward the waiting crowd gathered around the bandshell and it was his quivering voice that broke the silence as he read out his proclamation honouring the monarch.

“She proved herself one of the most effective and best-loved sovereigns the world has ever known,” he said in part. “Your Majesty, you were loved by everyone. Today, you leave us to be with your prince. Rest in peace.”

Local MLA Adam Olsen and Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith also spoke from the park’s bandshell, where North Saanich Mayor Geoff Orr and Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor had also joined them.

“For all of you who know Kenny, you know this is a difficult day, for him and many Canadians,” said Olsen. “We are here today to honour and pay respect to our late Queen Elizabeth, who served as Canadian head of state for 70 years. Even as we acknowledge the role that Queen Elizabeth played in all of our lives, we recognize the long and complex history that we have here in these lands and the lands across our beautiful country and province.”

Olsen later said Canadians are witnessing a genuinely historic occasion as Canada’s head of state changes for the first time in decades. “We are here today to spend a few minutes to recognize the role Queen Elizabeth played not only in our country but across the world,” he said.

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McNeil-Smith praised Queen Elizabeth II’s inspirational commitment to public service. Public service, he said, can take many different forms and the Queen has served as a model for service for “nearly all of our lives.” Queen Elizabeth II’s extensive record of service, during which she travelled to nearly 120 countries with 22 individual trips to Canada alone, gave thousands of speeches and talked to countless individuals from all walks, is challenging to comprehend, he said.

“When the Queen spoke at events or to the larger audiences of Britain, the Commonwealth or the world, we always felt that she was speaking to us both personally and collectively, re-assuring us, providing us with hope and optimism, with messages of faith, family, and community, not only as a queen but as a mother and as a grandmother. We are grieving the Queen, whose efforts to unify the Commonwealth, often united us, even momentarily with something greater than ourselves. “

Queen Elizabeth II never wavered and served until her final days, he added. “Her Majesty was exemplary in what it means to live a life devoted to service and throughout her long life, showed impeccable dignity and grace.”

Monday’s ceremony also included a rendering of God Save the King, led by local Sidney signer Edie DaPonte, two minutes of silence and the laying of wreaths by representatives of ANAVETS Unit 302 and the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 37.

Thirty minutes after the ceremony had ended, the sky was just as blue, as it was at the start, but as people left the park, one could not help but think that they had entered a different era.

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