TORONTO – A flag-draped casket carrying the body of Lincoln Alexander arrived at Ontario’s provincial legislature on Sunday, giving politicians and the public an opportunity to pay their respects to a man whose life and career were a series of groundbreaking firsts.
Alexander, who died on Friday at the age of 90, was Canada’s first black member of Parliament, first black cabinet minister, and served as Ontario’s lieutenant governor from 1985 to 1991.
Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty, Lieutenant-Governor David Onley and several members of Alexander’s family were at Queen’s Park to pay their respects and sign a book of condolences.
Jason Kipps, Alexander’s stepson, said his stepfather was a “friendly guy” and a trailblazing public figure.
“I think he made a significant contribution to this province and this country,” Kipps said. “He was an inspiration for a lot of people and I think that will live on.”
Alexander’s casket sat in the legislature’s main hallway, covered with some of the celebratory medals he had been awarded throughout his life.
His body was brought from Hamilton to Toronto early Sunday afternoon, where it will lie in state until Monday night.
His casket will then be transported back to Hamilton, where Alexander will lie in repose at Hamilton city hall until a state funeral set for Friday.
Born in Toronto in 1922 to West Indian immigrants, Alexander was a wireless operator with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War.
He became the first black member of Parliament in when he was elected in 1968, and was re-elected three times, in 1972, 1979 and 1980.
Alexander became Canada’s first black cabinet minister when he held the labour portfolio from 1979 to 1980 under the Progressive Conservative government of Joe Clark.
He served as Ontario’s lieutenant governor from 1985 to 1991 — the province’s first black vice-regal.