Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits the casket containing the remains of former Ontario Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander as it lies in state at the Ontario Provincial legislature at Queens Park in Toronto, October 22, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/MARK BLINCH
The former lieutenant-governor and first black member of Parliament died last week at the age of 90.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was among the dignitaries who spoke with Alexander's family and signed the book of condolences.
Former prime minister Joe Clark was also on hand, as was former premier Mike Harris, who called Alexander a very special man.
"Everyone was important to him," Harris said. "He had great dignity and I am glad to have known him. He was an individual who taught us a lot about dignity."
Mayor Rob Ford said he last enjoyed Alexander's company during Caribana.
"It is very important for me to be here," Ford said. "We enjoyed each other's company. The least I can do is pay my respects because he will be dearly missed. He broke down a lot of barriers."
Sen. Art Eggleton, a former Toronto mayor and federal Liberal cabinet minister, said Alexander was an inspiration.
"I knew him as a man of wisdom," Eggleton recalled. "A man who came from a poor background and one who overcame many odds."
But it wasn't just the country's most powerful people who came to express their condolences. The long line of mourners was comprised mostly of people who admired the man from afar or who encountered him in their day-to-day lives.
As a university student, Robert DeRubeis worked at a grocery store in Hamilton where Alexander shopped.
"He was always dressed to the nines and he always made time to talk to people," DeRubeis remembered.
Denver Johnson said he brought his two teenaged sons to remember a man of significance who doesn't just exist in the history books.
"He was a hero in their time and we are here to recognize a hero who was a person of colour," Johnson said.
Densel Fullerton said he had the good fortune of meeting Alexander on a few occasions.
"He was a charming man and he always remembered who you were," Fullerton said. "I was proud of him and he never had a chip on his shoulder."
Morine Fairweather said she was a fan of Alexander since she was a girl.
"I would hear about all he did," Fairweather said. "He was an inspiration and a landmark."