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GiveLife.ca

    
Pierre Elliott Trudeau:
1919-2000


World leaders, Canada's political elite, arrive to mourn Trudeau
By JEFF GRAY and MARK MacKINNON
October 3, 2000

Canada's political elite, leaders from around the world, and thousands of members of the general public converged on Montreal's towering Notre-Dame Basilica for the state funeral of former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, slated to be one of Mr. Trudeau's honorary pallbearers, told reporters in front of the basilica that Mr. Trudeau a "symbol of democracy and freedom around the world."

Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard received applause as he arrived for the funeral, as did Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

Mr. Chretien told reporters on the basilica's steps that Mr. Trudeau was what we wanted, all of us, to be, and he said that his former political mentor will be remembered as the first, and the greatest, of the prime ministers of the new Canada.

Former Progresssive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney told reporters on the basilica's steps that Mr. Trudeau "served this country very, very well, and this is his moment."

Cuban President Fidel Castro arrived surrounded by security officers.

Former Ontario premier Bob Rae, Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day, and Convervative Leader Joe Clark also made their way into the basilica for the ceremony.

As the dignitaries arrived, RCMP officers began to carry Mr. Trudeau's casket out of Montreal's City Hall, where he had lain in state and where, as in Ottawa, crowds paying their respects kept the building open until almost 4 a.m.

Outside Notre-Dame, some Canadians came as early as 5 a.m. to line up outside the basilica, with more than 1,500 hoping to get a seat inside for the 11 a.m. ceremony.

Thousands more gathered across the street from the basilica, giving up any hope of getting inside but still wanting to be part of the country's final goodbye to Mr. Trudeau.

A giant screen was set for those left outside to watch the ceremony. There are only 1,000 seats reserved for the public inside the basilica. The other 1,700 will be filled by invited guests.

Some people in line outside came from as far as Niagara Falls, Ont., and there were many who had made the drive from Toronto, chatting and swapping stories about the man many call Canada's most colourful prime minister as they waited.

By 8 a.m., three hours before the funeral was set to begin, there were already 1,000 people in front of Notre-Dame.

"It's a moment in history," said Toronto resident Kim Mercer, one of several dozen people who slept on the steps of the historic church to make sure she had a seat for the mass. "It was a last-minute decision to come and felt like the right thing to do."

Also attending the ceremony for Mr. Trudeau, who died Thursday of prostate cancer, were Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Canada's three surviving ex-prime ministers - John Turner in addition to Mr. Clark and Mr. Mulroney.

With a report from Canadian Press


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