Advertisement

Canada bids farewell to former prime minister Brian Mulroney

By Blair Gable

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Canada's dignitaries, political elite, and other well-wishers gathered at Montreal's Notre-Dame Basilica on Saturday to pay final respects at the state funeral of former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, who died on Feb. 29 at age 84.

Mulroney's casket, draped in the Canadian flag, arrived at the Notre-Dame Basilica in a procession that included members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the armed forces, and the Mulroney family. His body had laid in repose at the nearby Saint Patrick's Basilica for public visitation since Thursday.

Born on March 20, 1939, in Baie-Comeau, Quebec, Mulroney became Canada's 18th prime minister when he led the center-right Progressive Conservatives to a historic win in 1984 and served for almost nine years in that post.

Highlights of his tenure included a free trade deal with the United States and the introduction of a goods and services tax, which although unpopular helped fix the government's finances.

In attendance at Saturday's ceremony were Canada's Governor General Mary Simon, current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Quebec Premier Francois Legault, business mogul Pierre Karl Peladeau, as well as actor Ryan Reynolds.

"It's the end of the evening for a giant but the music continues in his memory," Trudeau told the gathering.

A corporate lawyer turned businessman, Mulroney had a broad smile and booming voice, and was known for his charm. He and his wife Mila had four children.

"My dad held an audience in the palm of his hand. Speeches were such a major part of his life that he told us that when it was his turn to go up to what he called - that great political rally in the sky - he wanted us to bury him with his podium," his daughter Caroline Mulroney said in an eulogy.

Mulroney will be buried in a private ceremony in Montreal.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil and Divya Rajagopal; Editing by Daniel Wallis)