Pierre Elliott Trudeau:
Eulogy by Roy Heenan
October 3, 2000
Roy Heenan, family friend and business partner
My colleague Jaques Hébert will address you in French. He or myself could render homage to Pierre Elliott Trudeau in both English or French, and we would be understood by a majority of Canadians.
Like most Canadians I admired the prime minister - Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Our political leaders have eloquently testified of him as a leader and as a public man.
But I would like to talk to you about the private person who lived amongst us for the last 15 years. We came to know him as a warm and compassionate man, invariably courteous to anyone he met. He was unassuming. He walked to work. He cared not for the trappings of power. One could not walk among the streets beside him without being stopped by somebody who wanted to shake his hand or say a few words to him. He was invariably cordial, patient and polite.
I have also learned the warmth of his friendship, and I witnessed the depth of the love for his children. Justin, Sacha, Sarah - your father loved you and Mishu so very much. He was devoted to you. He was so proud of you. No one could ever go into his office or talk to him for a few minutes without realizing that you were never far from his thoughts.
The world knows that you have suffered a terrible loss, but you will bear it secure in the certain knowledge of his great love for you. That must be your strength.
It has been said that Pierre Trudeau was aloof and distant. That is not the Pierre Trudeau I knew. On the contrary, he was caring polite and kind, and he had such judgment. It was a privilege to discuss with him matters of the moment and witness his acute and analytical mind ready to engage in any discussion with enormous civility.
I will also remember the vigorous man who loved the outdoors. He loved skiing. His skiing style can only be described as daredevil. But he was afraid of no mountain and he delighted in the challenge. It was with great regret that he told me last April that this winter was the first winter in 75 years that he had not skied and he was sad.
He loved the oceans, swimming and scuba diving and, of course, canoeing. He wrote that the art of governing had some parallels with the art of canoeing. Sometimes you have to fight against the current. He never hesitated to do that.
I'm told that Pierre Elliott Trudeau died last Thursday. The man maybe, but his ideas live on. I speak not as a politician but as an ordinary citizen.
Over the last few days, citizens by the tens of thousands have turned out to bear witness of their love and admiration for Pierre. We saw it in Ottawa on Parliament Hill. We saw it on the train that brought him back home to his beloved city. And we saw it again here in Montreal in the last two days.
And why? Why do the citizens respond so spontaneously? Because he was a remarkable leader? That's true. But it's not because of that. It is because he created and articulated a vision of this country that resonates in the hearts and minds of millions of Canadians. He defended that vision, both rationally and passionately, both at home and abroad.
And what is that vision that is shared by so many? First, of peoples living together in harmony in a single state. And that brother not be turned against brother. Second, that we aspire to a just society. One that offers equality of opportunity. A vision of understanding of and charity toward others, particularly the less fortunate.
That the two cultures of Canada flourish and be nurtured across this great land. And that other cultures enrich us. That bilingualism is an asset and not a liability. And of course, that the fundamental rights and freedoms be ensured and enshrined for all Canadians.
This vision has changed forever the sense of ourselves as a society. This is his legacy to us. This is the testament of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who left it to all Canadian men and women that he loved so well. We will also remember that on a deeper and more personal level, he challenged us all to be the very best that we could be. We have been touched by greatness.
Today, we say au revoir to Pierre and we bury the body. But the vision continues, the vision lives.