House of Commons pays tribute to former prime minister John Turner

Justin Trudeau says former Liberal prime minister John Turner was someone who knew that Canadians had to work hard for democracy and that it should never be taken for granted.

“Today, we remember him as a House of Commons man, a strong advocate for equality and a champion of our democracy,” the prime minister said earlier today.

Trudeau and representatives of the other political parties paid tribute in the House of Commons to Turner, who died Saturday at age 91.

“He used to say that democracy doesn’t happen by accident. He was right,” Trudeau said.

“John knew that keeping our democracy strong and free meant that we needed to put in the hard work to keep it that way.”

Trudeau, who said he knew Turner his whole life, invited Canadians to celebrate his legacy by signing a virtual book of condolences.

WATCH | Justin Trudeau pays tribute to John Turner:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pays tribute to former Prime Minister and Liberal Leader John Turner in the House of Commons. 4:02

Deputy Conservative leader Candice Bergen said it’s clear from the stories about him that Turner cared about individual Canadians, not just those he met in the corridors of power.

“Stories this week have been set in airplanes, taverns, church basements and coffee shops — stories of a man who took the extra time to know their stories and to remember their names,” she said.

WATCH | Candice Bergen praises Turner’s regard for Canadians: 

Deputy Conservative Leader Candice Bergen pays tribute to former Prime Minister and Liberal Leader John Turner 5:39

Turner served 79 days as prime minister in 1984 but spent three decades in public life, including as finance minister, justice minister and leader of the Liberals in opposition.

Bloc Québécois whip Claude DeBellefeuille spoke of how during his time as justice minister in the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau, Turner was involved in decriminalizing abortion and homosexuality.

She said he was also involved in deploying the War Measures Act during the October Crisis in 1970, a highly controversial move in Quebec, but pointed out that he did not like how Quebec was absent from the constitutional agreement in 1982.

NDP House leader Peter Julian told a personal story about how his father was inspired to run for the Liberals in the 1984 election.

“That inspiration that John Turner developed and provoked in so many Canadians is something that lives today,” he said.

Elizabeth May, parliamentary leader for the Green party, said she was wearing red — the colour most associated with the Liberal party — in honour of Turner.

She spoke of his belief in the importance of backbench MPs and how he fought against the centralization of power in the Prime Minister’s Office.

A state funeral — which will not be open to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions — will take place Oct. 6 at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in Toronto.

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