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FAQ about state funerals

What is a state funeral?

State funerals are public events held to honour and commemorate present and former governor generals and prime ministers as well as sitting ministry members. Any famous and respected Canadian can also be granted a state funeral at the prime minister’s discretion.

State funerals are offered, organized and administered by the federal government in co-ordination with the deceased’s family.

Why are they held?

These public events provide a chance for the public to grieve and show their respects for eminent Canadians.

Who have been given state funerals?

  • The first state funeral in Canada was held for Thomas D’Arcy McGee who was assassinated in April 1868.
  • Sir John A. Macdonald, who died in office in 1891, was the first prime minister to be honoured with a state funeral.
  • James Alexander Robb was the first cabinet minister to receive a state funeral in Canada.
  • Mostly recently, NDP Leader Jack Layton was given a state funeral in Toronto after he died of cancer in August 2011.

Click here for the full list of past state funerals.

Who gets invited to state funerals?

Invitations are drawn from Canadian Heritage’s table of precedence and are issued in consultation with the family.

Are all state funerals held in Ottawa?

No. While a lying-in-state takes place on Parliament Hill, state funerals can be held in other cities at the family’s request.

Can a state funeral be declined?

Yes. The wishes of the deceased and of the family are respected at all times by the federal government.

Compiled from Canadian Heritage