john turner state funeral

Here's what the state funeral for former Prime Minister John Turner looked like

A state funeral was held for former Prime Minister John Turner on Tuesday and thanks to the spread of COVID-19, things looked a bit different than they might have otherwise.

While the service was televised  — apart from a private moment not shown on TV  — only 170 people were able to attend, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well as Turner's closest friends and family.

The funeral was held at St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica in Toronto, which can hold 1,600 guests, however COVID-19 concerns meant organizers were forced to limit the guest list.

Those who were in attendance wore face masks and were spread out among the pews to be able to properly social distance, and no communal singing was allowed. 

During the service, Turner was remembered as a strong politician with a social conscience and a profound love for the environment who spent decades serving the country. 

Long-time family friend Sean Conacher called him a "great Canadian."

"In light of what's happening now in politics, he harkened to a past that I think we need more of, where public service is important," Conacher said. 

Trudeau also spoke of Turner's legacy in Canada. 

"Today, more than ever, we need more people like John. His legacy called on us not to wait for change to happen but to stand up and build a better country for everyone," he said. 

Turner's family announced his passing on Sept. 19, adding that he died peacefully at home at the age of 91. 

His daughter, Elizabeth, praised him for always making time for family and friends despite a public life. 

"He handled himself with great grace and dignity and he always maintained his sense of humour," she said during the funeral. 

Turner was born in England in 1929 but moved to Canada in 1932 where he became a track star before studying law. He was named to cabinet in 1965 by Prime Minister Lester Pearson, and was appointed as justice minister after losing the race for prime minister to Pierre Trudeau in 1968.

After leaving politics and spending time as a corporate lawyer on Bay Street, Turner won the 1984 Liberal leadership race. He served as prime minister for 79 days. 

Lead photo by

Gage Skidmore

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