Family, friends and former colleagues of Jim Flaherty will gather in Toronto's St. James Cathedral on Wednesday for a state funeral to honour the former minister of finance, who died last Thursday at age 64. Nathan Denette/Canadian Press
The state funeral for Jim Flaherty is now underway at Toronto's downtown St. James Cathedral where mourners have filled the pews to pay their respects to a friend and former finance minister, whose sudden death last week spurred an outpouring of grief that has stretched across the country and across party lines.
Flaherty, 64, died of a massive heart attack in his Ottawa condo last Thursday despite frantic efforts by a cabinet colleague and paramedics to resuscitate him.
While Flaherty was raised a Catholic, he and his wife Christine Elliott began attending an Anglican church later in life.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper paid tribute to his friend and only finance minister before a packed church that included Flaherty's family, friends and various dignitaries.
Harper remembered Flaherty fondly saying "as a human being, he was the complete package."
The prime minister said while Flaherty was "fiercely partisan," he was liked by his opponents, even his "enemies."
It's a quality Harper said he envied. "I can't even get my friends to like me," Harper joked.
Harper, who lost his own father 11 years ago, had some advice for Flaherty's triplet sons.
"You are no longer 'the boys,'" Harper said. "You are young men.
"Hold on to your mother and to your father's lessons, and know that there are many here and beyond who are there for you."
Harper's wife, Laureen, could do little to hold back the tears as her husband remembered Flaherty.
Flaherty: A beloved husband, father, and brother
Norah Flaherty paid tribute to her brother, who her family called either "Jimmy, Jim-bo or Zoomy," but never Jim.
She recalled a moment when they were growing up as children when Flaherty was caught throwing out his pennies.
"'They're not worth anything,'" she recalled her brother saying.
In 2012, Flaherty announced the Canadian government would be scrapping the penny.
"Somewhat prophetic," his sister joked as the crowd laughed with her.
Flaherty's son Quinn remembered his father as a man who instilled in him and his two brothers the values of "friendship, family, faith and love."
"Dad, I love you. We love you."
Put your feet up, lay your head back, close your eyes and relax. We will take it from here," said Quinn.
Galen said his dad was his "hero."
"When he thought he could do better, he'd tell you. But when he saw you do your best, he would always make time to show you how proud he was of you."
Galen said today did not mark the end of his relationship with his father, rather the beginning.
"He was my father because he showed me what it takes to be a man," said Galen.
Flaherty's widow, who is a Toronto-area MPP, spoke mainly for herself and their third son John.
Elliott spoke with love an admiration about Flaherty's dedication to family and public service.
"Even when his life became more difficult in the last year or so, he persevered until he was certain that he could leave things in order for his successor," she said of Flaherty, who was undergoing treatment for a serious but non-life-threatening skin condition known as bullous pemphigoid.
Flaherty, who had always been open about his son John's mental disability, "wanted to make a difference in people's lives," she said.
"He wanted to make sure that everyone regardless of their varying abilities had the chance to live happy lives of purpose and dignity. Inclusion in every respect was his ultimate goal."
"John, Galen and Quinn: Your father loved you completely. You are the centre of his universe and you know that he would do anything in the world for you," Elliott said as she fought back tears.
Labour Minister Kellie Leitch, a Flaherty confidante who rushed to his condo in an attempt to revive her friend and had dinner with him on the eve of his death, read a passage from the Bible.
The mourners wore green scarves, which were handed out at the church's entrance, as a tribute to their Irish friend.
Flaherty's death less than a month after his retirement as finance minister sent shockwaves through the national capital, where flags have been flying at half-mast and the Peace Tower has been bathed in green light, a tribute to his Irish heritage.
Rob Ford, Mark Carney attending
The federal Conservative caucus has been invited, as well as Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Finance Minister Charles Sousa, former Ontario premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, and former prime ministers Brian Mulroney and John Turner.
Gov. Gen. David Johnston and Mark Carney, the former Bank of Canada governor who now heads the Bank of England, will also be on hand at the funeral, which is taking place under tight security just blocks from Toronto's famed financial district, a favourite Flaherty stomping ground.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, whose friendship with Flaherty caused the diminutive finance minister some uncomfortable moments in the media spotlight last year, is also expected to attend.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo has confirmed his attendance. So, too, have NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
Hundreds of dignitaries and citizens lined up to pay their respects Tuesday at the Abilities Centre in Whitby, Ont., which caters to the disabled and able-bodied alike.
Harper arrived late in the day for a private viewing while an emotional Leitch, also paid her respects, blowing a kiss to his casket. Ford and his brother, Doug, also paid their respects in Whitby on Tuesday.
Mourners filed into a low-lit room in the city east of Toronto, where Flaherty's Maple Leaf-draped casket lay between two Mounties in ceremonial dress. Flaherty's widow — Ontario MPP Christine Elliott — and the couple's triplet sons stood on one side as Irish tunes played softly from speakers.
Flaherty's state funeral is the first such honour since 2011, when former NDP leader Jack Layton was laid to rest. State funerals are customarily only given to current or former prime ministers, governors general, sitting cabinet ministers or members of the Royal Family.
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