Canada plans state funeral for late Prime Minister Brian Mulroney

FILE - Brian Mulroney, the former prime minister of Canada, listens during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Canada-U.S.-Mexico relationship, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Mulroney has died at the age of 84, his daughter Caroline Mulroney posted on social media, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) (Jacquelyn Martin, Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TORONTO, ONT – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada will hold a state funeral for Brian Mulroney, the prime minister who in the 1980s solidified trade ties with the U.S. and spoke out against South Africa’s apartheid and whose death drew tributes Friday from world leaders.

Mulroney died Thursda y at age 84, after a fall at his home in Florida. Mulroney’s daughter, Caroline, said in a statement that her father died peacefully surrounded by his family.

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The flag on the Peace Tower at Parliament in Ottawa was flying at half-staff Friday in Mulroney’s honor, as lawmakers suspended Parliament for the day and agreed to offer tributes to him on March 18.

Leader of the Progressive Conservative party from 1983 to 1993, Mulroney served almost a decade as prime minister after he was first elected in 1984. Mulroney forged close ties with the United States through a sweeping free trade agreement.

President Joe Biden called Mulroney a tireless advocate for Canada and said he got to know him when he served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“Mulroney worked with President Reagan to advance the Acid Rain Treaty, which has helped protect our waterways, and negotiated the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement. To guard our shared borders from defense threats, Mulroney signed the modern North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) agreement,” Biden said in statement.

“Mulroney was fearless and not afraid to stand up for causes he cared about like advocating against racial apartheid in South Africa," Biden said. " I saw firsthand his commitment to the friendship between our two nations, as well as his abiding love for Canada and its people," he added.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Mulroney “holds a special place in South Africa’s history.”

“During his term, he spoke out against apartheid, advocated the economic isolation of the regime and took a stand when many in the international community were wavering,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.

Mulroney had enduring friendships with former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and eulogized both at their funerals.

Reagan and Mulroney became friends as two national leaders during the last decade of the Cold War. Mulroney’s nine years in power overlapped with Bush’s four.

Former President George W. Bush expressed sadness at Mulroney’s death and credited him with helping end the Cold War.

In a statement referencing the Canadian leader’s close relationship with his father, Bush quoted from Mulroney’s words at the elder Bush’s funeral: “But the best ships are friendships, and may they always be.”

“May his ship sail on in fair winds and following seas,” said the statement from Bush and his wife, Laura.

It was Mulroney’s amiable relationship with his southern counterparts that helped develop a free-trade treaty, a hotly contested pact at the time. The trade deal led to a permanent realignment of the Canadian economy and huge increases in north-south trade.

Fred Ryan, chairman of the board of the Reagan Foundation and Institute, said in a statement that Mulroney was one of Canada's most consequential prime ministers.

“The world has lost a true champion of freedom and democracy,” Ryan said.

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