The latest on the state funeral for former prime minister Brian Mulroney

OTTAWA — 1:25 p.m.

The family follows the casket out of the church. The bell at Notre-Dame toll 18 times in honour of the country's 18th prime minister.

Meanwhile, a 19-gun salute begins at the Old Port of Montreal.


1:15 p.m.

Guests inside the basilica join the choir and musicians in singing "O Canada."

As the casket is taken out of the basilica by the RCMP honour guard, a recording of Brian Mulroney singing "We’ll Meet Again" is played, per his wishes. Ben sings along.


1 p.m.

Theodora Lapham, Mulroney's 18-year-old granddaughter, comes to the microphone to sing "Mais qu’est-ce que j’ai?"

She pauses, holding back tears, as she introduces the song that she says was her papa's favourite.

The crowd claps for her for a long time.

Marc Hervieux then joins her and they sing "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" together. Mila in the front row is singing along.

Marc holds her hand as Brian's voice joins them, a recording playing his rendition of the song's final verse. People in the crowd gasp as they recognize his distinct baritone.

Theodora hugs her grandmother as she heads back to her seat.

There is a moment of silence before closing prayers.


12:35 p.m.

Mulroney's son Nicolas reads the universal prayer in English and in French.

The priests prepare communion.


12:25 p.m.

The Catholic mass part of the funeral has begun with an opening prayer from the Archbishop of Montreal, Christian Lépine.

Mulroney's son Ben gives the first reading, and Mark gives the second reading in French.

The Notre-Dame Basilica Choir performs in between.


12 p.m.

Jean Charest steps up to give his eulogy, offering his condolences and thanks to the Mulroney family.

Charest says Mulroney once said he would never have become prime minister if it hadn't been for the love and support of his wife.

He recounts Mulroney's political career highlights and says he chose to spend his political capital, taking risks and becoming a rare leader who was "able to define an era as his own."

Charest says he can't think of a more unpopular economic policy than the implementation of the GST, and yet he can't think of a more popular economic policy withall the subsequent prime ministers who opted to keep it.

Charest says Mulroney treated his political opponents with respect. "We live in a country that he helped build, and because of Brian Mulroney we live in one of the greatest countries in the world."

Another singer, Marc Hervieux, performs.


11:55 a.m.

Tim McBride arrives to share a eulogy on behalf of former U.S. secretary of state James Baker, who is recovering from back surgery.

The eulogy opens with Baker's regrets that he could not attend.

"Brian was as straightforward and direct about defining his role as prime minister as he was at getting things done," McBride says.

Baker's eulogy lauds Mulroney's accomplishments on free trade, and says sadly support for free trade has been waning in the U.S. and around the world.

He says Mulroney was an inspirational leader, a beautiful human being and a friend, and says U.S. leaders always listened to him.


11:45 a.m.

As he walks up to the front of the church, Wayne Gretzky pauses and places his hand on the casket for a moment.

"We've had so many wonderful speakers, you're going to figure out who's in politics and which guy is the hockey player real quick," he says to laughter.

Gretzky shares that he met Mulroney in 1984 when he became Progressive Conservative leader.

He gets some good laughs as he shares anecdotes about the times he spent with Mulroney, calling him one of the greatest prime ministers Canada has ever had.

Gretzky's short speech ends after just a couple of minutes. He shakes hands with Mila and the Mulroney family as he heads back to his seat.

The Tenors step up to sing "Danny Boy."


11:35 a.m.

Businessman Pierre Karl Peladeau takes the microphone, and says he considers himself very privileged to have known Mulroney.

He says Mulroney inspired him. "To me, Mr. Mulroney was a second father."

Peladeau says Mulroney's sense of humour was an integral part of his magic.

The crowd inside the basilica listens quietly and laughs when Peladeau makes a joke.


11:25 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gives his eulogy.

He quotes Mulroney, saying, "Leaders must have vision and they must find the courage to fight for the policies that will give that vision life. Leaders must govern not for easy headlines in 10 days, but for a better Canada in 10 years."

Trudeau says his mother Margaret told him this week that Mulroney reached out to her over the years, and says he was not surprised to hear that.

He says Mulroney often advised him during NAFTA renegotiations and encouraged him.

As his speech ends, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra begins playing a piece by Mozart.


11:15 a.m.

Speaking in both official languages, Caroline Mulroney talks about her father's support throughout her life.

She says he told her every day that she was the greatest daughter on earth.

She also says her dad was immensely proud of her brothers and their careers and families.

Caroline says he relished his role as papa to 16 grandchildren, whom he spoiled, and was a loyal friend.

In French she talks about how proud he was to be from Quebec.

"My dad saw the world in a bigger way than most. His humanity defined him, which is why he transcended politics and connected with people in a way that left an indelible mark on their hearts and souls."

Caroline talks about her parents' love for one another over 51 years. Through tears, she ends with, "I miss you, daddy."


11:08 a.m.

Caroline Mulroney walks to the front of the church and begins her eulogy.

"No one gave a speech like my dad," she says.


11 a.m.

As Brian Mulroney's casket is carried into the basilica, soprano Marie-Josée Lord performs an excerpt from the opera La Wally.

Guests inside Notre-Dame stand silently and watch.

Mila Mulroney is surrounded by four of her young grandchildren as she walks behind the casket, leading the family to their seats.

Christian Lépine, Archbishop of Montreal, gives opening remarks to welcome the guests.


10:50 a.m.

Brian Mulroney's family stand huddled under a cluster of umbrellas in the wet snow as they watch his casket being carried into Notre-Dame Basilica.

The RCMP honour guard marches the casket into the church as a group of Canadian Armed Forces members keep watch.

The honourary pallbearers stand watch at the top of the steps to the basilica.

The Mulroney family follows the casket inside.


10:40 a.m.

Inside Notre-Dame, Trudeau has taken his seat beside Francois Legault.

Pierre Karl Peladeau, who will give a eulogy later, made his way alone up the aisle to the back of the church as a couple of guests snapped pictures on their phones.

Several premiers and federal cabinet ministers are lingering together in one corner near the front.

Organ music began to play as church officials, including the Archbishop of Montreal, took their seats.


10:30 a.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives at Notre-Dame Basilica, and stops to speak with the media briefly.

He says Mulroney's dedication to Canada and to Canadians was legendary.

"He shaped our history, got the big things right. He had a huge impact 40 years ago, he had a huge impact four years ago as he helped Canada and me negotiate through a very challenging time with our free-trade deal with the United States."

The Royal Canadian Air Force band is now playing alongside the funeral cortege.


10:20 a.m.

Inside Notre-Dame Basilica, guests have been given stickers for their lapels that appear to identify where they can sit.

Some of the guests can be heard discussing whether it would be inappropriate to try and get Wayne Gretzky’s autograph. Others chat about their excitement and surprise at getting an invitation last Sunday to attend.

The centre aisle is clearing but one of the side aisles remains full. The pews on the main floor are mostly full now, and officials are asking people to take their seats.


10:15 a.m.

Church bells are tolling 84 times, one for each year of Brian Mulroney's life, as the funeral procession makes its way to Notre-Dame Basilica.

The hearse is accompanied by an RCMP honour guard walking alongside the car in their ceremonial red serge.

The Mulroney family is in a series of black vehicles making their way through the snowy Montreal streets.


10:10 a.m.

The bells are ringing at St. Patrick's Basilica in Montreal as Brian Mulroney's casket leaves the church.

The bells are silenced while the casket is placed into a vehicle by RCMP members in their ceremonial red serge uniforms.

The funeral cortege is now making its way from St. Patrick's to Notre-Dame Basilica for the state funeral.


10 a.m.

Members of the Mulroney family have begun to arrive at St. Patrick's Basilica to escort the former prime minister's casket.

Brian's wife Mila walked into the basilica with their four children and some of their grandchildren.

Members of the family proceeded up the centre aisle and gathered around the flag-draped casket at the front.

Members of the RCMP then picked up the casket, and gingerly carried it out of the church.

Inside the sanctuary at Notre-Dame Basilica, four large television screens are set up, showing intermittent scenes of inside and outside the church.


9:30 a.m.

A few hundred people are already milling about in the sanctuary of Notre-Dame Basilica in advance of the funeral's 11 a.m. start.

They include former cabinet ministers Peter MacKay and Peter Van Loan, Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew and Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

The singers are warming up inside.

Some people are already sitting but many are mingling in the aisles as a steady buzz of crowd noise echoes off the high ceilings.


9 a.m.

The streets outside Montreal's Notre-Dame Basilica are very snowy and quiet for a Saturday morning as people begin to arrive for the state funeral of former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

The guest list includes Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds, the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, and a long list of current and former politicians.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press