April 24th, 2024

Ahead of funeral, Montreal’s turn to remember former prime minister Brian Mulroney

By Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press on March 20, 2024.

Sentinels surround the casket of former prime minister Brian Mulroney as he lies in state at the Sir John A. Macdonald Building, across from Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA – On what would have been Brian Mulroney’s 85th birthday, his family gathered in a ballroom just across the street from Parliament Hill to greet a steady stream of mourners and well-wishers.

“Make sure you tell him happy birthday,” his son, Mark Mulroney, told some visitors Wednesday as they made their way up to the flag-draped casket.

The mood on the second day of the former prime minister’s lying-in-state was noticeably lighter than the day before. Family members laughed and chatted with people who were eager to share their own memories and stories.

They included Kathy Turner and Blair Turner, the sister and son of Barry Turner, a member of Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative caucus in 1984.

“We felt compelled to be here and pay our respects to the Mulroney family, and be here on behalf of my father as well,” Barry said, noting his father died in 2021.

“He’s up there singing ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling’ with prime minister Mulroney,” Kathy added with a smile.

She said her brother was proud to be a member of Mulroney’s government.

“(Mulroney) stood up for what he believed in,” she said. “He was a real, good politician – which is what we need now.”

Many of the visitors recalled some kind of personal connection to the late politician.

Krzys Bajkowski moved to Ottawa from Poland in 1993. Now a proud Canadian, he said he “had the honour to shake prime minister Mulroney’s hand at the Eternal Flame” on Canada Day.

“He was an honourable gentleman, doing very good things for Canada – the free trade was one of the main ones – and I have some good memories of him.”

Melanie Tod said she had a very high regard for Mulroney, and wanted to offer her condolences to his family.

“I think it takes remarkable strength, in this time of mourning, to stand there, meet strangers and be ‘on’ the whole time when they probably want to just cry.”

Officials said more than 900 people offered their condolences to Mulroney’s family on Tuesday.

That included Gov. Gen. Mary Simon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a wide assortment of other elected officials, ambassadors and dignitaries.

Around 2 p.m. Wednesday, the funeral cortege departed Ottawa for Montreal. Mulroney will lie in repose at the St. Patrick’s Basilica on Thursday and Friday.

Dignitaries and invited guests of the Mulroney family will be there Thursday morning. Members of the public can attend between noon and 6 p.m. Thursday, and between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Friday.

A state funeral is set for Saturday at the Notre-Dame Basilica, with eulogies planned by Mulroney’s daughter Caroline, Jean Charest and Wayne Gretzky.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 20, 2024.

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