‘My father was very proud to call him a friend,’ Justin Trudeau says of Fidel Castro

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is remembering former Cuban President Fidel Castro as “a larger than life leader.”

Castro died today at the age of 90.

Trudeau, who is attending the Francophonie Summit in Madagascar, expressed his deep sorrow at learning of Castro’s passing.

His statement offered condolences on behalf of all Canadians and at the same time acknowledged that Castro was “a controversial figure.”

But Trudeau also referred to the late president as a “legendary revolutionary and orator.”

The prime minister went on to say that “Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.”

“On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader,” the prime minister said.

Trudeau recently travelled to Cuba but was unable to meet with Castro, who had been a friend of his father and served as an honorary pallbearer at Pierre Trudeau’s funeral in 2000.

However, Castro’s brother, the current president, was in the front row as the prime minister spoke to students at the University of Havana.

Trudeau said it was a real honour to meet Castro’s three sons and his brother while he was in Cuba. 

The Trudeau family has a long history with the Castros.

In January 1976, then prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau rankled many when he became the first NATO leader — in fact, the first Western leader — to visit Fidel Castro’s Cuba. The two got on famously, developing a close bond that would last for decades after that encounter.

“I know my father was very proud to call him a friend,” Trudeau said.

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