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American flags fly at half-mast near the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018, in honour of Arizona Senator John McCain, who passed away at 81 on Saturday.

J. David Ake/The Associated Press

Canadian politicians are expressing their sympathies to the family of Arizona Senator John McCain, who has died of brain cancer at the age of 81.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote on Twitter that Mr. McCain was an American patriot and hero whose sacrifices for his country, and lifetime of public service, were an inspiration to millions.

Conservative party Leader Andrew Scheer praised Mr. McCain on Twitter, writing his decades of service in defence of freedom crossed party lines and touched freedom-loving people across borders.

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Former prime minister Stephen Harper also expressed his sympathies, calling Mr. McCain an American hero, while former Progressive Conservative party leader Peter MacKay tweeted that freedom loving people everywhere are mourning the heartbreaking loss of a true voice for integrity and civility.

“Senator McCain was a great friend to Canada and a true statesman whose intelligence, tenacity and courage were unmatched,” Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland wrote on Twitter.

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney is remembering Mr. McCain as “a committed friend of Canada.”

Mr. Mulroney said in a statement that the Arizona senator, “would always come down on the side of his friendship with us.”

As recently as June, Mr. McCain tweeted his support for Canada after U.S. President Donald Trump called Prime Minister Trudeau weak and dishonest.

The Republican Senator wrote, “To our allies ... Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t.”

Mr. McCain, an avowed free-trader, had long supported renegotiating the North American free-trade agreement, going so far as to make an unprecedented trip to Ottawa in the midst of his 2008 campaign for president to deliver a speech that called for expanding the tripartisan agreement.

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Speaking to the Economic Club of Canada months ahead of the election, Mr. McCain lauded the pact for doubling cross-border trade, creating 25 million jobs in the United States and four million in Canada.

But he said there’s more work to do, including resolving border delays that create “a serious impediment to trade, the equivalent of a tariff.”

International response

Meanwhile, U.S. Presidents past and present joined members of Congress from both parties and world leaders in mourning Mr. McCain and praising him for a lifetime of service and accomplishments.

President Donald Trump, who once criticized fellow Republican McCain for being taken prisoner during the Vietnam War, said his “deepest sympathies and respect” went out to McCain’s family.

A black hearse, accompanied by a police motorcade, could be seen driving away from the ranch near Sedona, Ariz., where Mr. McCain spent his final weeks. For 50 miles along Interstate 17 southbound, on every overpass and at every exit ramp, people watched the procession. Hundreds, including many waving American flags, parked their cars and got out to watch.

With a police escort, a long procession accompanies the hearse carrying the late Arizona Senator John McCain along Interstate 17 on the way to Phoenix, on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, in Anthem, Ariz.

Ross D. Franklin/The Associated Press

Mr. Trump’s brief Twitter statement said “hearts and prayers” are with the McCain family.

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Mr. Trump and Mr. McCain were at odds until the end. The President, who as a candidate in 2016 mocked McCain’s capture in Vietnam, had jabbed at the ailing senator for voting against Republican efforts to roll back former president Barack Obama’s health care law.

Earlier this summer, Mr. McCain issued a blistering statement criticizing Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Former presidents, including those who blocked Mr. McCain’s own White House ambitions, offered emotional tributes.

Mr. Obama, who triumphed over Mr. McCain in 2008, said that despite their differences, Mr. McCain and he shared a “fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed.”

Mr. Obama said they “saw our political battles, even, as a privilege, something noble, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those high ideals at home, and to advance them around the world.”

Former president George W. Bush, who defeated Mr. McCain for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, called Mr. McCain a “man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order” and a “friend whom I’ll deeply miss.”

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Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush are among those expected to speak at Mr. McCain’s funeral. Mr. McCain is expected to be remembered at ceremonies in Arizona and Washington before being buried, likely this coming week, at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery on a peninsula overlooking the Severn River in Annapolis, Md.

Tributes poured in from around the globe.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted in English that Mr. McCain “was a true American hero. He devoted his entire life to his country.” Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said Mr. McCain’s support for the Jewish state “never wavered. It sprang from his belief in democracy and freedom.” And Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, called Mr. McCain “a tireless fighter for a strong trans-Atlantic alliance. His significance went well beyond his own country.”

Mr. McCain was the son and grandson of admirals and followed them to the U.S. Naval Academy. A pilot, he was shot down over Vietnam and held as a prisoner of war for more than five years. He went on to win a seat in the House and in 1986, the Senate, where he served for the rest of his life.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, called McCain a “fascinating personality.”

“He would occasionally be in a bad place with various members, including myself, and when this would blow over it was like nothing ever happened,” Mr. McConnell said Saturday after a GOP state dinner in Lexington, Ky. “He also had a wicked sense of humour and it made every tense moment come out better.”

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Former vice-president Joe Biden, who developed a friendship with Mr. McCain while they served together in the Senate, said the Arizona lawmaker will “cast a long shadow.”

“The spirit that drove him was never extinguished: we are here to commit ourselves to something bigger than ourselves,” Mr. Biden said

The Senate’s top Democrat, New York’s Chuck Schumer, said he wants to rename the Senate building that housed Mr. McCain’s suite of offices after the Senator.

“As you go through life, you meet few truly great people. John McCain was one of them,” Schumer said. “Maybe most of all, he was a truth teller - never afraid to speak truth to power in an era where that has become all too rare.”

Tributes poured in from the United States and across the world following the death of political heavyweight John McCain on Saturday. Reuters

Mr. McCain was a war veteran who was captured in North Vietnam in 1967 and endured years of torture and abuse.

He died on Saturday after battling brain cancer for more than a year.

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