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Pierre Elliott Trudeau:

Ottawa says goodbye to a leader
The Globe and Mail
Monday, October 2, 2000

In an unprecedented outpouring of affection, thousands of Canadians came out to say goodbye to Pierre Elliott Trudeau Monday morning as the flag-drapped coffin of the former prime minister, accompanied by his two sons Justin and Sacha, made the final journey from Ottawa to Montreal.

Waving flags, flowers and even canoe paddles, the crowds were evident at Parliament Hill, at each of the small towns dotting the train route and in Montreal - the bilingual and multicultural city that Mr. Trudeau called home.

Mr. Trudeau will lie in state until his funeral at the Notre-Dame Basilica on Tuesday morning.

Earlier on Parliament Hill, a tearful Justin Trudeau and his stoic brother watched as eight Mounties removed their father's coffin from the Hall of Honour and ceremoniously lowered it into a black hearse.

Thousands of people - including Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, his wife Aline, and several other cabinet ministers - looked on as a band played O Canada and a 19-gun salute marked Mr. Trudeau's departure.

As the procession of cars left for the train station, the band played Auld Lang Syne and the crowd broke into spontaneous applause, many people wiping away tears.

A crowd of several hundred was on hand at the train station as the coffin was placed on the four-car train bound for Montreal.

And all along the route from Ottawa to Montreal, crowds of grieving Canadians gathered to show respect and grief for their fallen leader.

This weekend in Ottawa, as many as 60,000 people stood in line for hours to pay their last respects to Mr. Trudeau, some waiting as long as five hours. The last members of the public left the Hall of Honour at 3:45 a.m. Monday.

On Parliament Hill, mountains of red flowers and hand-written notes surrounded the Centennial Flame, which has become a makeshift memorial to Mr. Trudeau.

At the flame, Mr. Trudeau's former wife, Margaret, greeted people and read some of the notes to her young daughter by another marriage.

"I met Mr. Trudeau in 1968 and I thought it would bring some closure to meet you," one woman told Margaret Trudeau, who smiled softly.

But after CTV reporter Mike Duffy reminded her that it was the birthday of her dead son Michel, her face crumpled and she collapsed to her knees on the grass beside the flame. She was led away by unidentified family members.

"It's Michel's birthday today," she said in a strained voice to those around her. "I didn't remember."

Michel, the youngest of her three sons with Trudeau, died nearly two years ago in a skiing accident in British Columbia.

A few feet from the crowd and the flame, she fell to her knees on a grassy area.

An RCMP officer urged bystanders: "Just give them some room" before relatives helped her up and led her away.

Robert Hurst, senior vice-president of CTV News, said both he and Duffy called Margaret Trudeau about an hour after the incident.

"Mike Duffy called immediately after I did ... and he apologized to Margaret and she graciously accepted both his and CTV's apology.

"She said she had been trying to compose herself and when she went down to the flame and Michel's name was mentioned, she just lost it.

"This was absolutely unintentional. The way Mike had addressed the question was sympathetically talking about Michel's birthday."

Mr. Trudeau died in his Montreal home of prostate cancer on Thursday, three weeks short of his 81st birthday.

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