Canada holds state funeral for former prime minister Brian Mulroney

23 March 2024, 16:44

Canada Mulroney Funeral
Canada Mulroney Funeral. Picture: PA

Mr Mulroney, who died on February 29 aged 84, was prime minister for nine years between 1984 and 1993.

Politicians, dignitaries and celebrities joined members of the public on Saturday at a state funeral to honour Brian Mulroney, one of Canada’s most significant prime ministers, who in the 1980s solidified trade ties with the US and spoke out against apartheid in South Africa.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and hockey great Wayne Gretzky were among mourners at Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica.

Mr Mulroney, who died on February 29 aged 84, was prime minister for nine years between 1984 and 1993 and led the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

“He shaped our history. He got the big things right,” Mr Trudeau said to reporters outside the church before going in. “He had a huge impact.”

Canada Mulroney Funeral
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau places his hand on the coffin (Ryan Remiorz /The Canadian Press/AP)

Mr Mulroney’s legacy includes the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed between Canada, the United States and Mexico during his time as prime minister, his participation in the fight against South African apartheid, the 1991 acid rain accord with the US, and the introduction of an unpopular sales tax that represents a significant amount of government revenue.

Mr Trudeau, Mr Gretzky and others delivered eulogies.

“Mr Mulroney was one of the greatest prime ministers we ever had,” Mr Gretzky said.

Former US secretary of state James Baker was to deliver an eulogy, but could not attend because of recent back surgery.

Tim McBride, a former senior White House official who worked with Mr Baker during George. H. W. Bush’s presidency, delivered Mr Baker’s remarks in his place.

Canada Mulroney-Funeral
Actor Ryan Reynolds, second from left, and former NHL player Wayne Gretzky, right (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press/AP)

“Brian Mulroney was an inspirational leader and a beautiful human being and above all to those of us south of the Canadian border, Brian Mulroney was a friend, a staunch, supportive friend who had the confidence to tell us when he thought a different American approach might serve our country better.

“We always listened to Brian Mulroney,” Mr McBride said.

The funeral follows four days of public tributes in Montreal and Ottawa during which political dignitaries and members of the public filed past Mr Mulroney’s coffin and paid their respects to his wife and four children.

“Every day of my life my dad told me that I was the greatest daughter that God put on this earth. Now we all know how much he liked hyperbole, but how lucky am I,” Caroline Mulroney, his daughter, said in her eulogy.

“He gave me love, confidence and strength, we are heartbroken by our loss. We adored him. I miss you daddy.”

Canada Mulroney Funeral
Caroline Mulroney delivers a eulogy (Ryan Remiorz /The Canadian Press/AP)

Mr Mulroney had enduring friendships with former US presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and gave eulogies at both funerals.

Mr Reagan and Mr Mulroney became friends as two national leaders during the last decade of the Cold War. Mr Mulroney’s nine years in power overlapped with Mr Bush’s four.

It was Mr Mulroney’s amiable relationship with his southern counterparts that helped develop a free trade treaty, a hotly contested pact at the time.

The trade deal led to a permanent realignment of the Canadian economy and huge increases in north-south trade.

Mr Mulroney was first elected in 1984 after winning the largest majority in Parliament in Canadian history, but he left almost a decade later with the lowest approval rating in Canadian history.

His Progressive Conservative party suffered a devastating defeat just after he left office. But in the years after the loss, prime ministers sought his advice.

By Press Association

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