Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney is remembered as a nation builder at state funeral.

Prominent Canadians, political leaders and family members remembered former prime minister and Progressive Conservative titan Brian Mulroney as an ambitious and compassionate nation-builder at his state funeral on Saturday.

The ceremony celebrating his life and legacy, which took place in Montreal’s iconic and ornate Notre-Dame Basilica, began at 11 a.m. EDT and lasted just over two hours.

Saturday’s commemoration began with the cathedral’s carillon bells ringing 84 times, representing Mulroney’s age at the time of his death.

The funeral procession, which included a Royal Canadian Mounted Police escort, an honor guard, military bands and honorary pallbearers, then made the one-kilometer snowy journey from St. Patrick’s Basilica to the cathedral.

Following the cortege carrying Mulroney’s regalia-adorned coffin into the grand space were his wife Mila, his four children Caroline, Ben, Mark and Nicholas, and his grandchildren.

‘No one gave a speech like my dad’

The first to deliver a eulogy was Mulroney’s daughter and Ontario Cabinet Minister Caroline Mulroney, who gifted the rapt cathedral with memories of her father, his humanity and ambitions, and the indelible mark he left on her life and career.

“No one gave a speech like my dad. With his beautiful baritone voice, sense of humor, and impeccable timing, my dad had the audience in the palm of his hand. Speeches were such an important part of his life that he said “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,” he began with a laugh.

Caroline Mulroney, daughter of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, speaks from the pulpit during his funeral in Montreal, Saturday, March 23, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

“I miss you dad,” he concluded, after sharing a deeply personal anecdote about his father’s last words to his mother.

Then it was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s turn.

“First and foremost, Brian was motivated by service. He was motivated by leadership, by doing important things well,” he said. “Of all the great things he accomplished, none brought him more pride and joy than the loving family he built.”

Following the prime minister were prominent Canadian businessman Pierre Karl Peladeau, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker (whose speech was delivered by his colleague Timothy McBride), and former Mulroney-era cabinet minister and prime minister of Quebec, Jean Charest.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (centre), seated on a front bench with, from left, the Governor General. Mary Simon, her husband Whit Fraser, Quebec Premier Francois Legault and her wife Isabelle Brais at the funeral of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, in Montreal, Saturday, March 23, 2024. (LA CANADIAN PRESS / Ryan Remiorz)

The common thread of these speeches was a great reverence for Mulroney as a nation-builder.

Emotional musical performances

Interspersed between these sorrowful but joyful eulogies were musical interludes, including a rendition of Frederic Weatherly’s ‘Danny Boy’ by international vocal group The Tenors.

During the Catholic Mass component of the service, family members and local religious leaders presented prayers and readings, and celebrants received communion.

Then Mulroney’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Theodora Lapham, sang what she said was her favorite song: ‘Mais qu’est-ce que j’ai?’ As she sang the notes, Mulroney’s wife could be seen singing from the front pew, before the cathedral rose to a standing ovation.

Elizabeth Theodora Lapham wipes away tears after singing “Mais qu’est-ce que j’ai?” During the funeral of her grandfather, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, in Montreal, Saturday, March 23, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS / Ryan Remiorz

She was then joined by Marc Hervieux to sing ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling’ and halfway through a recording of the former Prime Minister singing the tune was played, a nod to the iconic moment at the 1985 Shamrock Summit in Quebec City.

After a moment of silence and final praise, ‘O Canada’ was sung.

Possibly most poignant was the choice of music for the downturn: a recording of Mulroney singing ‘We’ll Meet Again’, fulfilling the former prime minister’s wish.

“We’ll meet again. I don’t know where, I don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day. Keep smiling, like you always do, until the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away,” he sang.

“So please say hello to the people I know and tell them I won’t be long. They’ll be happy to know that when you saw me leave, I was singing this song.”

Symbolic moments, high-profile guests

The funeral concluded with the ringing of the carillon bells 18 times, reflecting his tenure as Canada’s 18th prime minister, and a 19-shot salute fired from the clock tower dock in Montreal’s Old Port.

According to a federal government official, the family has planned a private burial for the former prime minister after the funeral.

Former prime ministers Jean Chretien, left, and Stephen Harper talk at the funeral of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, in Montreal, Saturday, March 23, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remioz

Guests at the ceremony included family, friends, current and former government representatives from various political backgrounds, foreign dignitaries, prominent businessmen, as well as representatives of organizations with which Mulroney had a close connection.

Among those in attendance were Governor General Mary Simon, actor Ryan Reynolds, Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, Loblaws’ Galen Weston, Quebec Premier Francois Legault, former prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Stephen Harper, and former announcer Peter Mansbridge.

As VIP attendees, mostly dressed in black, milled about before the ceremony, there was a buzz in the air. They stood in silence when Mulroney’s coffin arrived.

The funeral concludes the week of mourning

Saturday’s events followed a week of commemorations in both that city and the country’s capital, giving Canadians the opportunity to reflect on their contributions and offer their condolences.

Federal party leaders and MPs paid tribute to Mulroney’s political legacy on Monday in the House of Commons, regaling his family sitting in the gallery with their memories.

Then, throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, approximately 2,000 members of the public and many other dignitaries attended Mulroney’s funeral, where his coffin was placed on a pedestal and draped in the Canadian flag, while his family, pillars of strength amid their own pain, remained standing. for hours accepting condolences.

He Ottawa part of the commemorations. concluded with Mulroney’s funeral procession making a final somber but symbolic journey through Center Block and Centennial Flame.

The cortege then traveled to Montreal to spend two more days in repose at St. Patrick’s Basilica, a place of great personal importance to the Mulroney family.

To help Mulroney in and out of the state funeral, 17 honorary pallbearers were chosen, including close friends of the former prime minister, reflecting the various chapters of his life.

Brian Mulroney’s immediate family watches as RCMP pallbearers carry the coffin at the former prime minister’s funeral, in Montreal, Saturday, March 23, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Among those chosen to take on this role are: former Mulroney chief of staff and ambassador Derek Burney; former senator and progressive conservative stalwart Michel Cogger; Grammy-winning songwriter David Foster; the prominent lawyer Jacques Jeansonne; former journalist and Mulroney communications director William J. Fox; biographer L. Ian MacDonald; and Norton Rose Fulbright President Walied Soliman.

Mulroney’s daughter noted in her eulogy that her family was “comforted and very grateful for the universal outpouring of affection and admiration” shown over the past week.

“Although he didn’t care about polls, he did like good headlines, and those from recent weeks would have pleased him greatly,” he said.

The 18th Prime Minister of Canada

Mulroney died surrounded by his family in February, aged 84.

Throughout her impressive (if sometimes divisive) political career, Mulroney left an unmistakable mark on the country as she advanced a series of what she later described as “big ticket items.”

Born in 1939 to a working-class family in Baie-Comeau, Quebec, he worked behind the scenes in conservative politics for years before seizing the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party in 1983. Mulroney ran a commanding federal campaign in 1984, winning a majority. with the largest number of seats in Canadian history.

As Canada’s 18th prime minister, Mulroney embarked on a sometimes stormy tenure that in nine years strengthened and tested the country.

He took Canada on a forced march through two major efforts to bring Quebec into the constitutional fold, secured the Acid Rain Agreement among many other environmental initiatives, and introduced the much-maligned Goods and Services Tax (GST).

On the international stage, Mulroney gave Canada a new sense of respect and presence. He rallied countries against apartheid and built stronger trade ties with the United States.

But as a weary country fell into recession, Mulroney’s poll numbers plummeted to a record low, and in 1993 he declared in a Center Block meeting room that the time had come to “step aside.” “, after doing “the best I could.” “for his country, handing the reins to Kim Campbell a few months later.

After going through some post-political reputational troubles, Mulroney established himself as a trusted advisor to his political successors, both Conservative and Liberal, leading prominent Canadians and elected officials of all stripes to remember him as a formidable leader, who never wavered in choose pick up the phone.

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