State funeral approved by Canadian House of Commons

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The House of Commons approved a state funeral for the last standing World War I veteran Tuesday. Three of them are still alive, Percy Wilson, who is 105 years old, Lloyd Clemett and John Babcock, both 106. They are the last three living veterans among the 619,636 Canadians who served between 1914 and 1918.

The motion, introduced by the New Democratic Party, was favored by all party leaders. The motion was prompted by an online petition by the Dominion Institute, a national organization which promotes Canadian history.

State funerals in Canada, by tradition, are reserved for prime ministers and governors general. This bill, which is now in affect in Canada, means that state funerals are not only for prime ministers but for people who have served the country.

"We want to thank the tens of thousands of Canadians who signed our petition in support of state funeral," said Rudyard Griffiths, the director of the Dominion Institute. "By passing a motion to offer a full state funeral today the Parliament of Canada will allow a grateful nation to pay proper tribute to our last Great War veteran on his passing and honour the over 600,000 Canadians he served with under arms from 1914-1918."

Australia, also held a state funeral for the final veteran of the Battle of Gallipoli. A State Funeral was offered for Steve Irwin in September 2006, but the offer was declined by his family's wishes. Canada is the fourth country to have a funeral honoring the last war veteran that served in any war.

"We won't be able to look them in the eyes anymore and thank them for their service the way we should for everyone who is willing to serve our country the way they did and our armed forces personnel still do," NDP Leader Jack Layton said.

Since November 6, around 100,000 Canadians had signed the online petition.