Pierre Elliott Trudeau:
Trudeau, Castro similar in many ways
By PAUL KNOX; With a report by Jeff Sallot
The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, October 3, 2000
"Long live Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro. Long live Cuban-Canadian friendship."
The words were Pierre Trudeau's, delivered in a speech during his historic 1976 state visit to Cuba.
Mr. Castro -- Cuba's President and the world's longest-serving head of government -- has outlived dozens of friends and foes among world leaders. And today, at Mr. Trudeau's funeral in Montreal, he will bid farewell to one he placed in the former category.
"They had a good personal friendship," said John Kirk, a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax and a long-time student of Canada-Cuba relations. "They were two people of towering intellect, and in many ways of similar character.
"They were both educated by Jesuits, they were both lawyers, they were both trying desperately to find a third option in foreign policy [during the Cold War]."
Mr. Castro paid a visit to Montreal City Hall late yesterday,where his old friend's body lay in state, and said in a statement that Mr. Trudeau "made a transcendental contribution to the modern history of Canada."
His visit comes at a frosty time in Canada-Cuba relations, which went downhill last year after Cuba jailed several political dissidents whose case had been taken up by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.
Sources in Mr. Chrétien's office said there will be no official meeting between the two leaders. But they said attempts were being made to arrange a reception for notables among the Trudeau mourners, and did not rule out a brief tête-à-tête between the two.
Mr. Trudeau's 1976 trip won him a spot on the cover of Time magazine.
Accompanied by his wife Margaret and infant son Michel, he was the first North Atlantic Treaty Organization leader to visit Cuba since the 1959 revolution that swept Mr. Castro to power.
In his memoirs that were published in 1993, Mr. Trudeau> recalled that despite his bombastic oratory, Mr. Castro in private was "so quiet-spoken that you had to lean forward to understand him."