Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney lies in state as dignitaries and public pay tribute


A solemn parade of dignitaries and supporters offered their condolences Tuesday to the family of Brian Mulroney as the former prime minister lay in state near Parliament Hill.

An RCMP honor guard cautiously delivered Mulroney’s flag-draped casket to the ballroom of the Sir John A. Macdonald Building, where it will remain until Wednesday.

Mulroney’s family – his wife Mila and children Caroline, Ben, Nick and Mark, along with Mark’s wife Vanessa and Caroline’s husband Andrew Lapham – lined up and greeted people for hours .

Governor General Mary Simon and her husband Whit Fraser were the first to pay their respects, followed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Dignitaries signed books of condolence as Mulroney’s official portrait, framed by an elaborate display of flowers, appeared nearby. By mid-morning, additional books were brought out to the foyer and pens were running out of ink.

Mulroney, who was prime minister for nine years between 1984 and 1993, died Feb. 29 in a Florida hospital.

Tributes poured in from all over the world after his death.

Ottawa resident Kim Ross headed to Wellington Street early to secure a spot in line to pay her respects and was surprised to discover she was among the first to arrive.

“I think he was a visionary in many ways,” Ross said, referring to Mulroney’s efforts to secure a treaty to control acid rain pollution.

About two dozen people braved the wet March cold for nearly two hours before being allowed inside.

Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney

The brief midday lineup was joined by Peter MacArthur and Bob Peck, both former diplomats who said Mulroney had a knack for finding consensus with his opponents.

“I think that’s something that’s sadly lacking in Canadian public life today,” Peck said, adding that he was excited to pay his respects to a great man.

“Politicians in the ’80s, particularly Brian Mulroney, had an ambitious vision,” MacArthur said.

“They wanted to achieve things and they had an agenda. Today there is too much disruptive division instead of vision.”

Mulroney’s vision included the controversial introduction of the GST, leading an international effort to end apartheid in South Africa, signing a free trade agreement with the United States, and pushing to incorporate Quebec into the constitution.

In more recent years he has assumed the role of a kind of elder statesman of Canadian public life, evident in the visibly warm conversations his family had on Tuesday with current and former politicians of all partisan stripes.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May was visibly emotional as she hugged the family and stood in front of Mulroney’s coffin. She gave an impassioned speech on Monday inside the House of Commons as part of a series of emotional tributes from party leaders.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and his wife Anaida also hugged Mulroney’s wife and children, as did many members of the Liberal cabinet.

More than 900 people had filed through the ballroom Tuesday afternoon.

Inside, an honor guard stood sentinel at each corner of the coffin, their ranks (RCMP officers, members of the Armed Forces, Parliamentary Protective Services staff) changing every 30 minutes.

On top of the coffin was a small black pillow displaying some of the honors Mulroney received in life, including Companion of the Order of Canada, Grand Officer of the Ordre national du Québec, and two jubilee medals from Queen Elizabeth II. .

People will also be able to pay their respects on Wednesday in Ottawa and at St. Patrick’s Basilica in Montreal on Thursday and Friday.

A state funeral will be held Saturday morning at Notre-Dame Basilica with eulogies from Caroline Mulroney, Jean Charest and Wayne Gretzky.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 19, 2024.

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