It is important that we at Pearson, as a United World College Community, suitably and respectfully mark the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, the constitutional Head of State of Canada.
In doing so we join with millions of individuals across Canada and around the world in mourning the loss of a unique and resilient female leader who embodied for her entire lifetime a deep sense of duty, wisdom, kindness and patience.
As Head of State, the Queen advised 12 Canadian prime ministers, including our namesake, Lester B. Pearson, during her reign. Our current prime minister, Justin Trudeau said today of the Queen that she had “an obvious deep and abiding love for Canadians.
“In a complicated world, her steady grace and resolve brought comfort to us all,” the prime minister said, adding that he would miss their “chats” where she was “thoughtful, wise, curious, helpful, funny and so much more. She was one of my favourite people in the world, and I will miss her so,” he said, holding back tears. (Source: BBC News)
Queen Elizabeth’s passing signals the immediate ascendancy of Prince Charles to the British throne and he is now properly referred to as King Charles III. As Prince of Wales, his previous title, Charles enjoyed a long association with the United World College movement. In 1978 he accepted the role of UWC President formerly held by his great-uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten who was himself a keen supporter of the movement.
During Charles tenure as president, he supported and oversaw the rapid growth of the movement to encompass nine schools across the globe. As was said of Charles, “his work in raising the profile and vision of the UWC movement is still felt today”. (Source UWC.org)
Our campus had the honour of hosting then-Prince Charles, most notably in 1979, when he met students, as well as founding Head of College Jack Matthews and Board Chair John Nichols.
I think it is both fair and appropriate to say that both the late Queen and her son King Charles III in many ways represent the spirit of philanthropy, challenge, service and personal commitment that are foundational to our UWC Mission and Values.
Whilst we are all acutely aware of the historical association of the British monarchy with colonisation, power, privilege and imperialism it is also appropriate to separate the individual lives of both Queen Elizabeth and King Charles from these structural legacies. Queen Elizabeth’s dignity, strength and self-sacrifice are admirable characteristics to celebrate. Equally Charles’ commitment to sustainability, environmental protection and dedication to the UWC movement are to be commended.
We join others around the world in marking respectfully the passing of a leader and a dignified role model who served for over 70 years, was a mother to four children, a grandmother to eight and a great-grandmother to 12.
President and Head of College
Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific and United World Colleges (Canada)