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The Canada Institute Mourns the Passing of Brian Mulroney

Former Prime Minister of Canada Brian Mulroney passed away on Thursday, February 29th. The Canada Institute mourns his death and honors his extensive and enduring contributions to Canada-US relations.

Brian Mulroney Wilson Awards Dinner
Former Prime Minister of Canada Brian Mulroney accepts the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service at the Wilson Center's Montreal Awards Dinner in 2003.

The Canada Institute of the Wilson Center mourns the death of the Right Honorable Brian Mulroney who served as a Canada’s 18th Prime Minister from 1984 until 1993. 

As Prime Minister, Mulroney made history when he proposed to negotiate a bilateral free trade agreement with the United States to US President Ronald Reagan at what became known as the “Shamrock Summit” held in Quebec City in 1985. Mulroney called an election in 1988 seeking a mandate to ratify the agreement and won a strong majority government. When US President George H.W. Bush initiated negotiations for a similar bilateral free trade agreement between the United States and Mexico, Mulroney successfully argued that Canada should join the talks that produced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which governed regional trade and fostered continental supply chains that form the basis for the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) which replaced NAFTA in 2020.

Mulroney also shifted Canadian foreign policy toward staunch support for the United States and the US-led global order. He supported U.S. diplomacy to end the Cold War, reunify Germany, counter Libyan sponsored terrorism and the 1990 liberation of Kuwait with an allied military force. Mulroney supported US military interventions in Somalia and Panama but challenged both the Reagan administration and Britain’s Thatcher government to sanction South Africa for its apartheid policy. 

Under Mulroney’s leadership, Canada became a global leader in addressing environmental concerns, from the negotiation of the Montreal Protocol on reducing chlorofluorocarbon emissions to the US-Canada Air Quality Agreement of 1991 (known commonly as the Acid Rain Treaty). Canada was among the first countries to commit to the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the 'Earth Summit', was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In 2003, the Wilson Center awarded Prime Minister Mulroney the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service in recognition of his ongoing leadership on the global stage.

Says Christopher Sands, Canada Institute Director:

Brian Mulroney made the greatest contribution of any prime minister before or since to strengthen Canada’s relationship with the United States, putting it on a firm footing of free trade, military alliance, and geopolitical partnership. His legacy is visible in today’s close relations between Ottawa and Washington. He will be remembered by Americans as a statesman and a loyal friend of the United States.

Says Justin Trudeau, 23rd Prime Minister of Canada in a statement:

Mr. Mulroney never stopped working for Canadians, and he always sought to make this country an even better place to call home. For his many accomplishments, Mr. Mulroney received numerous honours and awards, including the Order of Canada, the Ordre national du Québec, and the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service. A globally respected and recognized leader, Mr. Mulroney was also awarded some of the highest recognitions from governments around the world.

Says George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States in a statement:

As Prime Minister of Canada, Brian helped end the Cold War, working closely with Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He developed a very close friendship with my dad... My family is grateful for Brian Mulroney’s friendship.

We at the Canada Institute are saddened by his loss and thank him for his years of service to Canada and the Canada-US relationship. Our thoughts are with Prime Minister Mulroney's friends and family at this time.

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Canada Institute

The mission of the Wilson Center's Canada Institute is to raise the level of knowledge of Canada in the United States, particularly within the Washington, DC policy community.  Research projects, initiatives, podcasts, and publications cover contemporary Canada, US-Canadian relations, North American political economy, and Canada's global role as it intersects with US national interests.  Read more