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.
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." Something Harper said he envied.
"I can't even get my friends to like me," Harper joked.
Harper's wife, Laureen, cried as her husband remembered Flaherty.
The mourners are wearing green scarves, which were handed out at the church's entrance, as a tribute to their Irish friend.
Flaherty's widow and their three sons John, Quinn, and Galen, arrived at the church moments before the arrival of the casket, which was draped in a Canadian flag. While Flaherty was raised a Catholic, he and his wife Christine Elliott began attending an Anglican church later in life.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen were followed into the church by Governor General David Johnston and his wife Sharon as mourners waited for Flaherty's casket to arrive.
Flaherty's sister, NorahFlaherty, will also pay tribute to her brother, as will Flaherty's widow and their three sons John, Quinn, and Galen, who are triplets.
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, will read a passage from the Bible.
Adam Chambers, a political staffer who began his career working as an intern for the former finance minister, will read from a handwritten note Flaherty wrote to him in August 2006.
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
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.
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.
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.
Map: Flaherty cortege route
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