Generations of progressives paid their respects to former NDP Leader Ed Broadbent and celebrated his legacy and achievements during a state funeral held in the nation’s capital on Sunday afternoon.
Remembered as a passionate man who lived a meaningful life filled with books, classical music and quality time with his loved ones, Broadbent was honored for the profound impact he left on Canada and his ability to remain civil and pleasant to his political opponents while lobbying for a fairer and more inclusive country.
“Ed was not only a mentor, but also a friend. His seemingly infinite capacity for compassion made him a guiding light in our country and to many personally,” said Broadbent Institute Executive Director and Master of Ceremonies Jen Hassum. “We hope that his memory will help guide us toward a more equitable society.”
Eminent Canadians, as well as former colleagues, close friends and family (some wearing the party’s signature orange color) showed up at the historic Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Center on Sunday afternoon to say their final farewells to a giant of the New Democratic Party of Canada.
The ceremony, which took place in a vehicle Broadbent represented between 2004 and 2006 at the end of his political career, commemorated Broadbent for his decades of advocacy for justice and democracy in Canada and abroad, his work to address inequality of income and their efforts to promote equal rights for women.
The former NDP leader and founder of the Broadbent Institute died on January 11. He was 87 years old. He was born in Oshawa, Ontario. in 1936 into a working-class family, Broadbent’s political career spanned more than two decades.
He was first elected to Parliament in 1968 and served as an MP for 21 years, 14 of which were spent as leader of the NDP between 1975 and 1989. He led the party in four federal elections, facing four different elections. prime ministers and helped increase the party’s presence across the country.
He was also a respected academic, the first president of the International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development and honored as a Companion of the Order of Canada.
The state funeral included speeches by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Manitoba NDP Premier Wab Kinew, close friend and Broadbent Institute president Brian Topp, and Luke Savage and Jonathan Sas, co-authors of the 2023 book by Broadbent “Seeking Social Democracy: Seven Decades in the Struggle.” For equality.
Broadbent’s last partner, Frances Abele, also spoke, mentioning her experience losing two wives to cancer, Lucille in 2006 and Ellen in 2016.
Speaking to CTV News upon his arrival, Singh said that amid the grief, it was “a day to honor and remember Ed.”
“We owe him a lot. He is a legend,” Singh said. “He’s helped so many young New Democrats…people to this day think of him as ‘Honest Ed.’ He created this really powerful idea that politicians could be a force for good in life, and he was someone who people trusted, who they believed in, and showed that the New Democrats fight for workers.
During his speech, Singh became emotional as he shared that he found it difficult to believe that he will never again have the opportunity to speak to him or accept his advance, while also promising that his party will not let Broadbent down.
In comments from others, Broadbent was praised as a pragmatic, idealistic and intellectual politician, with a sharp sense of humour, who preferred phone calls to text messages.
Reflecting on Broadbent’s contributions to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and his pressure for policymakers to fight child poverty, Topp said, “Canada is better because of Ed Broadbent.”
“And Ed did all this while practicing the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable,” he continued.
“To the friends and family of Mr. Broadbent, we are with you,” Kinew said. “I join others across our great country in mourning this great Canadian.”
Kinew said he hopes Broadbent’s “joyful cheer” can be a lesson to everyone, and that in the future “more of our leaders will speak to us Canadians, as Mr. Broadbent did, appealing to our better angels.”
The event was marked by musical performances from Canadian talent, including members of the National Arts Center Orchestra. Music by German composer and musician Johann Sebastian Bach was played at the beginning and end of the somber ceremony.
In between was a moving video montage that Canadian Heritage helped develop, featuring a highlight reel of momentous moments in Broadbent’s public life. It included reflections from other political heavyweights Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien, as well as excerpts from some of Broadbent’s most iconic speeches.
Among the prominent Canadians in attendance were more than a dozen current NDP MPs, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former Prime Minister Joe Clark, House of Commons Speaker Greg Fergus, Green Party co-leader Elizabeth May, United Nations Ambassador Bob Rae, and Senator Hassan Yussuff, BC. Premier David Eby, Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow.
“He was a tireless advocate for social justice, and Canada is significantly better for his years of service, both in politics and outside of it,” Trudeau said upon arriving, adding that it was an honor to be there to pay tribute to Broadbent. and the millions of Canadians he inspired.
Traditionally, although state funerals are held for former prime ministers, sitting ministers and governors general, the prime minister can offer the special commemoration to any Canadian of standing.
In an interview with CTV News chief political correspondent Vassy Kapelos before the funeral, Clark said that while they were leaders of different parties, the two had “pretty common views on a lot of issues.”
“That doesn’t mean we always agreed; he overthrew my government, for example, and that’s a hard thing for me to forget,” Clark said. “I don’t know if you could call us friends when we were in the House of Commons together. I think we became more friends later.”
Clark called him an effective, widely respected and “immensely practical” parliamentarian.
In 2011, the former NDP leader founded the Broadbent Institute, a political think tank based in Ottawa. Last week, the organization announced it was creating an “Ed Broadbent Democracy Fund” that will be dedicated to strengthening Canadian democracy.
He nonpartisan legacy initiative is intended to continue Broadbent’s work of promoting the democratic participation of ordinary Canadians through educational programs, civic engagement and leadership development.
To mark the occasion, flags on all federal buildings in Canada, including the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill, were flown at half-mast on Sunday and were to remain lowered until sunset.
With files from Noushin Ziafati of CTV News