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GiveLife.ca

    
Pierre Elliott Trudeau:
1919-2000


Trudeau goes home
Thousands pay respects along route as train takes former prime minister's body from Ottawa to Montreal for state funeral

By JOHN GRAY and TU THANH HA
The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, October 3, 2000

MONTREAL -- Under clear blue skies and brilliant October sunshine, Pierre Trudeau returned from Ottawa yesterday to be buried today in Montreal, the city he always called home.

Thousands of mourners were expected in the narrow streets of Old Montreal this morning for the 90-minute state funeral in the monumental grey stone Notre Dame Basilica that has long been the spiritual focus of Quebec.

The funeral will be the final stage in the extravagant outpouring of emotion that began with the announcement on Thursday that the 80-year-old former prime minister had died as a result of complications from Parkinson's disease and cancer.

Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and most of the leading political figures in the land will be in the basilica for the televised funeral service.

But Mr. Trudeau's sons Justin and Sacha have asked that the burial be away from the public eye, to be attended by only family and close friends of the man who was prime minister for almost 16 years.

After a weekend in which tens of thousands waited for hours in Ottawa in the hot sunshine or in the cool of the night to pay their respects, the crowds appeared again on Parliament Hill to say goodbye yesterday morning.

As it had been throughout the weekend, it was a humble crowd -- windbreakers, sweaters, T-shirts, jeans and baseball caps, in marked contrast to the black suits of the official mourners.

Again it was a time for weeping as the crowd silently watched tears pour down the tortured face of Justin Trudeau while RCMP pallbearers carried the coffin out of the Parliament buildings to the waiting hearse.

A military band played Auld Lang Syne and the crowd of thousands broke into applause as the long line of black limousines pulled away from the Peace Tower and headed for the Ottawa train station for the final trip to Montreal.

The train ride was a majestic procession through the lush Eastern Ontario countryside, the fields still green from the summer's heavy rains but the leaves on the trees warning that winter is not far off.

At the request of Mr. Trudeau's two sons, the train slowed to a crawl through towns along the route as townspeople, especially children who had been liberated from their classrooms, gathered along the tracks to wave farewell.

Some mourners stopped their cars and waved to the train from the road. Occasionally, lonely figures in the fields stopped work to wave, hats over their hearts.

Everywhere were the red roses that were the trademark of Mr. Trudeau in life and have become his symbol in death.

In one village, someone threw a red rose that was caught by Sacha as he leaned out the window of the slow-moving funeral train to wave gently to the crowd on the platform.

There were more red roses when the hearse carried Mr. Trudeau's flag-draped coffin to the Montreal City Hall to lie in state until late last night.

There were significantly fewer spectators than in Ottawa, either because it was a working day or because Montreal has always had a more complex relationship with the former prime minister.

One of the little ironies of history and politics is that the coffin was carried into city hall just under the balcony from which French President Charles de Gaulle had delivered his famous cry of Vive le Québec Libre.

Mr. Trudeau, then justice minister but a very junior member of Lester Pearson's cabinet, had counselled a hard Canadian response to that kind of meddling in Canadian public life.

Politics made its own intrusion in Montreal yesterday as Heritage Canada distributed small Canadian flags to mourners at city hall.

The most eager of the flag-wavers led a number of people in singing O Canada as the coffin was carried up the steps and into city hall, although much of the anthem was drowned out by a helicopter.

But apparently spontaneous applause swept through the crowd when Justin and Sacha emerged from the lead mourners' car.

Noticeably absent from the official ceremonies yesterday was Margaret Trudeau, who had been so prominent when the body of the former prime minister was taken to Ottawa.

Yesterday morning, she appeared briefly in the Hall of Honour of the Parliament Buildings just before the coffin was carried out to the hearse, but she was not in the official party that travelled by train to Montreal.

She stayed on Parliament Hill and talked to spectators gathered around the pile of roses, letters and other mementos left at the Eternal Flame in front of the Peace Tower.

She broke down in tears when a television reporter reminded her that yesterday was the birthday of the third Trudeau son, Michel, who died two years ago in an avalanche in British Columbia.

In Montreal, as eight RCMP officers, sporting black armbands on their red serge uniforms, removed the coffin from the hearse, the crowd applauded. A rose-shaped balloon slowly drifted westward.

Inside the marble-columned foyer of city hall, the first minutes were kept private for Justin and Sacha Trudeau and friends of their father.

Among those accompanying the two young men were former federal minister Marc Lalonde, Senator Jacques Hébert, former Quebec lieutenant-governor Jean-Louis Roux, former governor-general Roméo Leblanc and his son Dominic, and Roy Heenan, senior partner of Mr. Trudeau's law firm, Heenan Blaikie.

Sacha had a sad, benign smile as he touched his father's casket. Justin, his teary face showing more emotion, bent down and kissed the coffin before following his younger brother out of the building.

The two sons were still young when Mr. Trudeau was in office and have led a private life, Dominic Leblanc said later. "They're not used to this kind of public ceremony."

Several dignitaries, such as current and former federal ministers Lucie Pépin, Denis Coderre, Francis Fox, Warren Allmand, Céline Hervieux-Payette, then paid tribute, along with members of Heenan Blaikie, including former Parti Québécois premier Pierre-Marc Johnson.

One Heenan Blaikie lawyer, Bruce McNiven, had his young children, 4-year-old Yan Maurice and 2-year-old Céleste, deposit roses at the foot of the casket, the first of what would become a knee-high mound of flowers.

As the general public came in, some dabbed tears from their eyes. Many made acts of religious devotions, expressed in their respective faiths.

Christians made the sign of the cross. One man knelt down and cupped his hands to heaven in a Muslim prayer. Another man, when he arrived before the casket, put on his head a kipah, the Jewish skullcap.

One woman, a small Canadian flag tucked into her hair, snapped a picture of the coffin with a disposable camera.

Marcelle Lapierre, 80, came with her friend, 79-year-old Françoise Blackburn, who clutched a cane and a framed black-and-white photo of Mr. Trudeau, autographed, "to Françoise with my best memories."

As she stood before the casket, Mrs. Blackburn presented the photo, then slowly walked away, tucking the portrait back into a plastic bag.

Downstairs from the main foyer, she joined others who put their thoughts in condolence books. "To my handsome Pierre, in memory," she wrote.

Mrs. Blackburn and Ms. Lapierre said they grew up as neighbours of Mr.Trudeau. "I remember going to the ball with him. I was 20 and he was 22. He was so nice," Mrs. Blackburn said.

"I wonder if there'll be as many people here as there were in Ottawa," Ms. Lapierre said. "There's a lot of Péquistes here in Montreal."

The sun hadn't risen yet and it was still chilly when the first well-wishers showed up outside the steps of Montreal's city hall.

Around 6:10 a.m., nearly an hour before sunrise and five hours before the bronze doors of the city hall would open to the public, Yvonne Orneau, a 49-year-old hairdressing instructor, became the first person to arrive at the scene. Shortly after, she was joined by Jeannette Gaboton, 55, a health-sector clerk.

Ms. Orneau was an immigrant from Martinique, Ms. Gaboton from Haiti.

"He was someone who was close to immigrants, who made us feel at home here," Ms. Orneau said.

"It's important to be here today to salute him. He gave me the opportunity to be here. Immigrants are the heirs of Mr. Trudeau," Ms. Gaboton said.

Those who came were a reflection of Mr. Trudeau's Canada: immigrants who started a new life here, older members of the Quebec bourgeoisie who still consider themselves French Canadian rather than Québécois, those who had travelled the country in the military, the young people intrigued by the Camelot-like magic of a past age.

"I'm in awe of him. I can only imagine what Trudeaumania was like in his days," said 22-year-old Matthew Glick, a Concordia University communications student who was six when Mr. Trudeau retired.

Despite having had only three hours of sleep, he was among those who arrived early, "so I won't miss too many classes."

Armande Leclerc, 72, had travelled from Quebec City to attend the funeral events at the request of her husband, Ben, a retired army sergeant-major who was too ill to come.

In 25 years of military life, the Leclercs had developed a deep-felt love for Canada -- and a distrust for Quebec separatists.

"You're not a Péquiste are you?" Mrs. Leclerc repeatedly asked a reporter.

Nearby, an RCMP officer in coveralls held a sniffing dog, part of the security presence, from police cruisers blocking the streets to sewer holes welded shut.

Under the increasingly hot sun, the crowd waited patiently, some with their own chairs.

By mid-afternoon, about 1,200 people were passing through each hour and the average wait was an hour. The line-up was smaller than in Ottawa -- where the wait could be up to four hours -- and hundreds of metres of metal barriers snaking at the back of city hall were unused.

About 1:30 p.m., Premier Lucien Bouchard visited, crossing himself before the casket and leaving without comment.

The contract dispute between the city of Montreal and its police officers left a sour note yesterday. For weeks, as part of pressure tactics, rank-and-file constables have been wearing jeans. They turned down a management request to sport their normal uniforms during the funeral events, prompting Mayor Pierre Bourque to complain that they didn't show proper respect for Mr. Trudeau.


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