Pierre Elliott Trudeau:
Sea of roses, blown kiss greet funeral train
By CAMPBELL CLARK
The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, October 3, 2000
ALEXANDRIA, ONT. -- A kilted James MacKinnon piped the first notes of The Mist Covered Mountains as Pierre Trudeau's yellow funeral train, blowing a few whistle blasts in reply, coasted through the station in Alexandria, Ont., yesterday. There were more than 2,000 people lined along the tracks in this town of 3,500, some waving roses and flags.
"Oh, I've got shivers," said Cathy Fougučre, who had come from nearby Green Valley. She moved toward the track, holding a flag and blowing a kiss at the train.
"I was at a very impressionable age when Mr. Trudeau came along," Ms. Fougučre, now 50, said later. "I believe he kept this country together."
This region's Scottish traditions and nearly even bilingualism were evident on the rail platform as the train passed, and people applauded and called out above the bagpipes. Several franco-Ontarians said Mr. Trudeau helped improve the status of French outside Quebec; several English-speaking former Quebeckers, now living just inside Ontario, said he kept the country together.
"He made mistakes and some bad calls but at least he admitted it. Most politicians today just pass the buck," said Stephen Thayer, 45, who lived in Knowlton, Que., when Mr. Trudeau was in power.
Jean Lecompte, 64, a retired teacher and court interpreter, said Mr. Trudeau's fault was arrogance, but that was a byproduct of a courage which allowed him to be unbound by custom and precedent. He credited Mr. Trudeau with bringing English- and French-speaking Canadians closer.
"Before Trudeau, French Canadians did not feel part of Canada. We had to be really pro-active in order to get our right recognized."
To Jean-Marc Lefebvre, who is and was a Conservative, Mr. Trudeau was a man whose importance went beyond party ties. To those on the platform, the passing train was a glimpse of history.
"I didn't come here really to see him -- he can't see me," Mr. Thayer said, and looked down at his daughter, Heidi, 8. "I guess I came down here to show my daughter. Somewhere down the line, she's going to read about him."