Skip to main content

Justin Trudeau cries has he kneels before the casket of his father, former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau, after the reading of the eulogy on Oct. 3, 2000, in Montreal.PAUL CHIASSON/AFP / Getty Images

This speech first appeared in The Globe and Mail on Oct. 4, 2000, the day after Justin Trudeau delivered his eulogy at the state funeral for his father, Pierre Trudeau, at Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal.

Friends, Romans, countrymen.

I was about 6 years old when I went on my first official trip. I was going with my father and my Grandpa Sinclair to the North Pole. It was a very glamorous destination.

But the best thing about it, was I was going to be spending lots of time with my dad. Because in Ottawa he just worked so hard.

One day, we were in Alert, Canada's northernmost point. [A] Scientific, military installation that seemed to consist entirely of low, shed-like buildings and warehouses.

Let's be honest: I was 6. There were no brothers around to play with. And I was getting a little bored because Dad still somehow, had a lot of work to do.

I remember a frozen, windswept Arctic afternoon.
And I was bundled up into a jeep and hustled out on a special, top-secret mission.

I figured I was finally going to be let into the reason for the existence of this high-security Arctic base.

I was exactly right.

We drove slowly through and past the buildings, all of them very gray and windy. And we rounded a corner, and came upon a red one.

We stopped. I got out of the jeep and started to crunch across toward the front door, but I was told — no, to the window.

So I clambered over the snowbank, boosted up to the window, rubbed my sleeve across the frosty glass to see inside, and as my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I saw a figure, hunched over one of many worktables that seemed very cluttered.

He was wearing a red suit with a furry white trim. And that's when I understood just how powerful and wonderful my father was.


Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The very words convey so many things to so many people.

Statesman, intellectual, professor, adversary, outdoorsman, lawyer, journalist, author, prime minister.

But more than anything, to me he was dad.

And what a dad.

He loved us with a passion and a devotion that encompassed his life. He taught us to believe in ourselves. To stand up for ourselves. To know ourselves, and to accept responsibility for ourselves.

We knew we were the luckiest kids in the world, and that we had done nothing to actually deserve it.

It was instead something that we would have to spend the rest of our lives to work very hard to live up to. He gave us a lot of tools.

We were taught to take nothing for granted. He doted on us but didn't indulge. Many people say he didn't suffer fools gladly. But I'll have you know he had infinite patience with us.

He encouraged us to push ourselves, to the limits. To challenge anyone and anything, but there were certain basic principles that could never be compromised.

As I guess it is for most kids, in Grade 3, it was always a real treat to visit my dad at work. As on previous visits, this particular occasion included a lunch at the parliamentary restaurant, which always seemed terribly important and full of serious people that I didn't recognize.

But at 8, I was becoming politically aware. And I recognized one whom I knew to be one of my father's chief rivals.

Thinking of pleasing my father, I told a joke about him. A generic, silly little grade school thing.

My father looked at me sternly, with that look I would learn to know so well.

And said: Justin, [in translation] we never attack the individual. We can be in total disagreement with someone, without denigrating them as a consequence, and, saying that, he stood up, took me by the hand and brought me over to introduce me to this man.

He was a nice man, who was eating there with his daughter, a nice-looking blond girl, a little younger than I was.

He spoke to me in a friendly manner for a bit, and it was at that point that I understood that having opinions that are different from another does not preclude being deserving of respect as an individual.

Because simple tolerance, mere tolerance, is not enough.

We need genuine and deep respect for each and every human being, notwithstanding their thoughts, their values, their beliefs, their origins.

That's what my father demanded of his sons, and that's what he demanded of his country. He demanded this out of a sense of love. Love of his sons. Love of his country, and that's why we love him so.

The letters, the flowers, the dignity shown by the crowds in bidding their farewells — all of this as a thank you for having loved us so much. [end translation]

My father's fundamental belief in the sanctity of the individual never came from a textbook. It stemmed from his deep love for and faith in all Canadians and over the past few days, with every card, every rose, every tear, every wave and every pirouette, you returned his love.

It means the world to Sacha and me. Thank you.

We have gathered from coast to coast to coast. From one ocean to another, united in our grief to say goodbye. But this is not the end. He left politics in '84, but he came back for Meech, he came back for Charlottetown, he came back to remind us of who we are and what we're all capable of.

But he won't be coming back any more. It's all up to us — all of us — now.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. He has kept his promises and earned his sleep.

Je t'aime, Papa.

Interact with The Globe