Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Margaret Trudeau smiles as Castro holds her youngest son Michel after the Trudeaus arrived in Havana, Cuba, Jan. 26, 1976.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose father was a great admirer of Fidel Castro, praised the Cuban dictator as a "larger than life leader" but made no mention of the horrendous human-rights abuses under the Communist regime.

Mr. Trudeau was widely panned on social media around the world and by opposition critics at home for a statement issued Saturday in which he lauded Mr. Castro as a "legendary revolutionary and orator" and asserted the Cuban people had a "deep and lasting affection" for the dictator who murdered and imprisoned thousands.

The Prime Minister joined a chorus of leaders from countries such as Russia, China, Syria, Vietnam, Bolivia and Venezuela in heaping praise on Mr. Castro. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Mr. Castro was a "beacon of liberation" for South America and the entire world. And Russian President Vladimir Putin said Mr. Castro had built a "free and independent Cuba" and he was a "tried and true friend of Russia."

Story continues below advertisement

Doug Saunders: Fidel Castro's revolution succeeded, but his promises evaporated

Obituary: The 20th century bears Fidel Castro's indelible stamp

Read more: From Trump to Gorbachev, the world reacts to Castro's death

In his statement, Mr. Trudeau said it was a "real honour" to have met three of Mr. Castro's sons on his visit to the island country earlier this month as well as his brother, Raul, a long-time defence minister who took over as president when Mr. Castro stepped aside.

"Fidel Castro was a larger-than-life leader who served his people for almost half a century," Mr. Trudeau said. "Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and health care of his island nation."

"I know my father was proud to call him a friend and I had an opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away," Mr. Trudeau said. "While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro's supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for El Comandante."

The Prime Minister responded on Sunday to the criticism. "He certainly was a polarizing figure and there certainly were significant concerns around human rights," Mr. Trudeau said in Antananarivo, Madagascar, where he was leading the Canadian delegation to the summit of la Francophonie.

Story continues below advertisement

"That's something that I'm open about and highlighted, but on the passing of his death I expressed a statement that highlighted the deep connection between the people of Canada and the people of Cuba," Mr. Trudeau said at a news conference.

When asked directly whether he thought Mr. Castro was a dictator, Mr. Trudeau said: "Yes."

Outrage over Mr. Trudeau's original statement, however, was scathing. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, whose Cuban parents fled the Castro regime when he took power in 1959, lashed out at Mr. Trudeau on Twitter: "Is this a real statement or a parody? Because if this is a real statement from the PM of Canada it is shameful & embarrassing."

Conservative Foreign Affairs critic Peter Kent told The Globe and Mail he was appalled that the Prime Minister would ignore Mr. Castro's long record of human-rights abuses and to whitewash a dictator who was his father's friend.

"Because of his dad's friendship with Fidel, he wants to reminiscence and pay tribute to the educational and medicine standards," Mr. Kent said. "But he was also a mass murderer. He eliminated and executed all those who opposed him in the early years of his dictatorship. He ran the country with an iron hand."

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose issued a statement that contrasted sharply with Mr. Trudeau's.

Story continues below advertisement

"With the passing of Fidel Castro, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Cuba who continue to endure his long and oppressive regime, even after his death," Ms. Ambrose said. "Under his rule, thousands were impoverished, thousands were imprisoned and executed, free speech, thought and assembly were curtailed or banned, all to live up to his version of 'socialism.' "

On Twitter, Conservative leadership candidate Lisa Raitt said "Prime Minister Trudeau should apologize and retract his statement on the death of dictator Fidel Castro."

Boston Globe columnist Michael Cohen tweeted that the statement from Mr. Trudeau was "just awful," while Wall Street Foreign affairs columnist Bret Stephens said: "Disgraceful statement from Justin Trudeau re Castro. No, Justin, Fidel didn't "serve" Cuban people. He made them serve him. For 60 years."

Former U.S. national security analyst John Schindler added to the global condemnation, saying on Twitter that Mr. Trudeau had dishonored Canada: "What a colossal embarrassment for a country that has fought so hard for human rights and dignity around the world."

The Trudeau family has a long history of affection and admiration for Mr. Castro. When he was prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau visited Cuba along with his wife, Margaret. The two leaders became close friends and even went sailing.

Justin Trudeau's brother, Alexandre, did a documentary and penned an article in 2006, describing the Cuban strongman as "something of a superman" who "lives to learn and put his knowledge in the service of the revolution."

Story continues below advertisement

He blamed U.S. imperialism for pushing Mr. Castro to take strong steps to curtail human rights and democracy for the greater good of socialism.

U.S. president-elect Donald Trump called Mr. Castro, who built a Communist state on the doorsteps of the United States, "a brutal dictator who opposed his own people for nearly six decades."

President Barack Obama was not as harsh and offered a "hand of friendship to the Cuban people."

With a report from The Canadian Press

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies