Brian Mulroney Remembered as a Devoted Husband, Father and a Leader of Vision and Courage

Brian Mulroney

Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Toronto, 1988. Mulroney, who made his political mark in the 1980s with the signing of a ground-breaking free-trade agreement with the U.S., died on February 29, 2024 at the age of 84. Photo: Alexis DUCLOS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Snow was gently falling on the steps of Notre Dame Basilica in Old Montreal as RCMP guards led the flag-draped coffin of Brian Mulroney up the aisle to the front of the old church, his beloved wife Mila Mulroney, their four children and large extended family trailing behind.

Canadians watching the service on TV joined Mulroney’s family, friends and colleagues to officially say goodbye to Canada’s 18th prime minister with all the pomp, ceremony and solemnity that befits a state funeral. 

The eulogists remembered Mulroney as a warm and loving father, devoted husband and a politician of charisma, vision and courage.

Members of the Mulroney family, left to right: Nicolas Mulroney, Ben Mulroney, Mila Mulroney, Miranda Lapham, Mark Mulroney, Caroline Mulroney and Vanessa Mulroney. Bill McCarthy, photographer to former prime minister Brian Mulroney, takes the photo, March 21, 2024, Montreal. Photo: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau  complimented Mulroney for his vision and understanding that “Leaders must govern, not for easy headlines in 10 days, but for a better Canada in 10 years.” And he mentioned a theme that recurred throughout the service: “He loved this country with all his heart.” Trudeau remembered the last time he spoke at Notre Dame, – “24 years ago, at my father’s funeral.” His eulogy back then for Canada’s 15th prime minister, Pierre Eliot Trudeau, was the spark that ignited his political rise. And as Mulroney’s first-born, Caroline Mulroney, began her eulogy on behalf of the  family, a similar sense of destiny was evident.

In a church packed with her father’s political friends and foes alike – former prime ministers Stephen Harper, Jean Chrétien and Joe Clark as well as  Bloc Québécois founder Lucien Bouchard, Conservative Party leader Pierre Pollieve, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, Green Party leader Elizabeth May to name a few – the president of the treasury board of Ontario and provincial minister of Francophone affairs began her speech referring to her father’s legendary oratorical prowess. “Bury me with the podium,” she remembers him instructing the family, and recalled “his beautiful baritone voice, his sense of humour and his impeccable timing.”

She did him proud, drawing laughs when she referred to his hatred of polls but love of a good headline, and knowing nods when she spoke of his humble beginnings, generous phone calls and common touch, but grounding all in his unwavering dedication to being a “girl Dad” and “a truly great father.” 

Caroline Mulroney also shed light on that magical bond that held Brian and Mila so closely together, through good times and bad. “Theirs was a true and equal partnership. Together for 51 years they were a political powerhouse. They achieved the unimaginable in their private and public lives, because they did everything together.” And she shared his last words, saying the family is heartbroken. With her deft mix of the personal and the public, delivered with confidence and grace, she proved herself a worthy heir to her father’s political legacy.


Mulroney’s protege and former Quebec premier Jean Charest defended his old friend’s political record, citing his ahead-of-its-time bona fides on the environment and apartheid as actor Ryan Reynolds, businessman Pierre Karl Péladeau and Galen Weston looked on. The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, eulogized Mulroney as “one of the greatest prime ministers we’ve ever had,” while calling for the national unity his funeral symbolized. 


In a week of poignant moments as the Mulroney family stood for days greeting those Canadians from coast to coast to coast who came to pay respects as their patriarch lay in state, the most profound came when Mulroney’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Theodora Lapham, gave an emotional rendition of her grandfather’s favourite song, Mais Qu’est-ce Que J’ai?, followed by his signature song, When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

As she began singing the final verse, a recording of Mulroney’s broad baritone was played over the speakers, prompting both laughter and tears from the family section – all the necessary elements of a proper Irish farewell.

Read on for the remembrance that appeared in the April / May 2024 issue of Zoomer magazine, which was going to press the day that Mulroney’s passing was announced.



True Blue: Canada’s 18th Prime Minister’s Legacy as an Elder Statesman Who Strove for National Unity


When Brian Mulroney passed away at 84 at the end of February – his beloved wife Mila (as she always seemed to be during his political career) and their four children at his side – he was remembered as a great statesman who, in the words of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “wasn’t afraid to do big things.” 

Born in Baie-Comeau, Que., Mulroney arrived on the political scene in the ’70s bursting with confidence, leading the way with his ample chin and, befitting the son of Irish immigrants, peppering his speeches with crowd-pleasing blarney. 

Mulroney was all smiles in 1984, the year he became prime minister. Photo: Tony Bock/Toronto Star via Getty Images


His first “big thing” was becoming leader of the moribund Conservative Party of Canada. During a magical run in the ’80s, he delivered consecutive majority governments, brokered a lucrative NAFTA free-trade deal, paid down the debt and stitched together an unlikely coalition of supporters in Quebec, Ontario and the western provinces. 

As Canada’s 18th prime minister, he joined a global conservative movement – led by U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and U.S. President Ronald Reagan – rallying them to impose sanctions against South Africa’s apartheid regime. Leading a rousing rendition of When Irish Eyes Are Smiling with Reagan at the 1985 Shamrock Summit was pure Mulroney.


From left to right: Brian and Mila Mulroney and President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan sing at the Shamrock Summit, 1985. Photo: Peter Bregg/Canadian Press


Ironically, it was trying to accomplish bigger things that hastened his political demise. The imposition of the Goods and Services Tax was deeply unpopular and repeated failures to get Quebec’s signature on the Constitution infuriated separatists and alienated westerners, a political quandary that vexes the Conservative Party today. 

After disentangling himself from the Airbus scandal, Mulroney enjoyed a second-act renaissance. A corporate lawyer, he watched his children forge careers in politics, finance and media. Always ready to chime in on political affairs, he accepted Trudeau’s invitation to serve as an adviser to the Liberal cabinet, sharing his vast experience to help push through the new USMCA free-trade deal.


Mulroney has Trudeau’s ear at the 2023 Atlantic Economic Forum. Photo: Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press


Taking a final bow on the world stage, he delivered eulogies for Nancy Reagan and George Bush Sr., speeches charged with emotion and gravitas that cemented his role as respected elder statesman. 

In his remaining years, he seemed very much at peace with his legacy. “I’ve done the very best for my country and my party,” he once said.
A fitting epitaph. —Peter Muggeridge


Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Winner of Back-to-Back Majority Governments in the 1980s, Passes Away at 84