John Turner remembered as principled politician, loyal friend, great Canadian

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Former prime minister John Turner was honoured as a principled politician, a loyal friend and a passionate protector of the environment today as family, friends and dignitaries gathered for a scaled-back state funeral.
Former prime minister John Turner was honoured as a principled politician, a loyal friend and a passionate protector of the environment today as family, friends and dignitaries gathered in Toronto for a scaled-back state funeral.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told mourners Turner was a "great Canadian" who fought tirelessly to protect the environment and to build a more just Canada.

He recalled how Turner said that democracy doesn't happen by accident.

"He knew we could rise to any challenge, and meet any moment, if we believed in one another and stood together," he said.

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

Turner died Sept. 19 at age 91.

Due to the pandemic, public health protocols — including mask wearing, sanitizing and physical distancing — were followed at the church service at Toronto's St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica.

There will be no public lying-in-state for public viewing and the church service was by invitation only.

Former prime minister John Turner stands in front of a portrait of himself on Parliament Hill in September 2004. He was honoured as a principled politician and a great Canadian at a state funeral today. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Turner's friend Richard Alway told the gathering the former prime minister had a pragmatic and conciliatory style that served him well as he dealt with the provinces on constitutional matters, advanced major justice reforms and sold official bilingualism to western premiers.

Alway said Turner took deep pride in his efforts to introduce legal aid to make the justice system more accessible, and in his work on changes to the judicial appointment process to ensure selections are made on merit rather than political ties.

"One looks to our south today to see the value of that reform," he said.

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