Politics

‘We’ll meet again’: Scenes from Brian Mulroney’s state funeral

Canadians had the opportunity Saturday to witness the final official goodbye to the late Brian Mulroney, who as prime minister led Canada from 1984 to 1993.

His time in office coincided with the end of the Cold War and he helped to lead the fight against apartheid in South Africa. His government enacted a series of important environmental accords, introduced the GST and launched the modern era of free trade in North America.

Here are a few moments you may have missed:

A star-studded event

Mulroney’s state funeral in Montreal was attended by roughly 1,300 people, including some of the most prominent figures in Canadian politics, culture and business.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre and the heads of Canada’s other federal parties were in attendance, along with numerous provincial leaders. Former prime ministers Stephen Harper, Jean Chretien and Joe Clark were there, along with Gov. Gen. Mary Simon and several former governors general.

Numerous other celebrated Canadians filled the pews in Notre-Dame Basilica, including actor Ryan Reynolds, media baron Pierre Karl Péladeau (who delivered a eulogy), Loblaw head Galen Weston and founder of the Bloc Québécois Lucien Bouchard.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, sits in a front pew with, from left to right, Gov-Gen. Mary Simon, her husband Whit Fraser, Quebec Premier Francois Legault and his wife Isabelle Brais, at the funeral of former prime minister Brian Mulroney in Montreal on Saturday, March 23, 2024. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

As they waited for the ceremony to begin, political allies and rivals shook hands and exchanged words — including former Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois, former Quebec Liberal leader Philippe Couillard and leading figures in the modern Conservative Party and the Progressive Conservative party it replaced, among them MP Andrew Scheer and Peter MacKay.

Mulroney’s singing voice

The funeral featured a mix of classical music, religious songs and more modern compositions, including a rendition of Danny Boy by The Tenors and Mais qu’est-ce que j’ai?, sung by Mulroney’s granddaughter Elizabeth Theodora Lapham.

One of the more poignant moments happened during a performance of When Irish Eyes are Smiling by Lapham and Marc Hervieux, when the assembly heard a recording of Mulroney singing the final verse.

WATCH: Mourners hear Mulroney’s voice during emotional tribute

Voice of Brian Mulroney lives on in emotional tribute from granddaughter

Audio of the late prime minister singing, ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling’ completed a musical tribute by his granddaughter Elizabeth Theodora Lapham and tenor Marc Hervieux.

A recording of the late prime minister singing We’ll Meet Again in his famous baritone was played as mourners filed out of the basilica at the end of the service.

Mulroney, who loved to sing, recorded a CD of 18 songs for his 16 grandchildren, his son Ben Mulroney told CBC earlier this week.

Caroline Mulroney’s moving eulogy

Mulroney’s funeral featured a number of eulogies, including words from hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and Prime Minister Trudeau. Former Progressive Conservative leader Jean Charest spoke about his experience working with the late prime minister as a cabinet member, and a representative of former U.S. secretary of state James Baker discussed Mulroney’s free trade legacy.

Caroline Mulroney, the late prime minister’s daughter, delivered the first eulogy. The Ontario provincial minister touched on both Mulroney’s experiences in politics and his role as father and husband.

“He gave me love, confidence and strength,” she said.

WATCH: Caroline Mulroney describes her father’s last moments 

Caroline Mulroney recalls last words shared by Brian and Mila Mulroney

In her eulogy, Caroline Mulroney remembers her father’s last day. ‘His body was tired but his heart would not let him give us up.’

She also shared the story of Brian Mulroney’s final words to his wife, Mila Mulroney.

“We will not have enough [time in] our lifetime to hear all the stories about when he reached out to friends, opponents and people he had never met,” Charest said.

Memories of phone calls

Many guests interviewed by CBC News on Saturday morning spoke of their own experiences with Mulroney, which often began with a phone call.

Prime Minister Trudeau said during his eulogy that his thoughts were with Mulroney’s family and that he understood some of what they were going through. The last time he spoke in Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal, he noted, was during the funeral of his own father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

He also told mourners that, during one of the many phone conversations he had with his predecessor, he learned that Mulroney also kept in touch with his mother, Margaret Trudeau.

Trudeau said that while he hadn’t known the two had talked, he wasn’t surprised, given Mulroney’s many contacts with Canadians from all walks of life.

WATCH: Trudeau pays tribute to Brian Mulroney

‘He loved this country with all his heart:’ Trudeau remembers Brian Mulroney

Speaking at Brian Mulroney’s state funeral, Justin Trudeau said the former prime minister loved connecting with Canadians and hearing their stories.

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