TORONTO -- Much of Canada marked former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's passing with flowers and words of affection, but the separatist faithful in his French-speaking home province of Quebec shed few tears.
Quebec's separatist Premier Lucien Bouchard was asked to name Trudeau's contributions to the province. His reply: "Let me think about that. I'll try to find one."
The 80-year-old former prime minister, who died of prostate cancer at his home Thursday, was a fervent nationalist who rejected French-Canadian desires to have their own country. He instead made French an official language along with English to fulfill his vision of a unified, bilingual country.
He was the only prime minister to invoke the War Measures Act at home in 1970, sending troops to Quebec to quell separatist uprisings and terrorist attacks.
Trudeau, who had been weakened by Parkinson's disease and a 10-day spell of pneumonia in January, will lie in state in Ottawa until his burial Tuesday in Montreal.
Bouchard was put on the defensive Friday at a press conference by a reporter suggesting Quebec had dragged its feet, for partisan political reasons, in honoring the late prime minister.
Bouchard denied the charges, and called Trudeau a "great son of Quebec."
Trudeau was prime minister from 1968 to 1984, with a brief break in 1979. Pundits dubbed his early years "Trudeaumania."
Pro-independence French-Canadians were brief in their comments Friday.
"He's not someone who is admired here because people are strong sovereigntists," said Pierre Lapointe, 29, a convenience store worker in Jonquiere, Quebec, a separatist stronghold.
But among Canadian nationalists, he was remembered as one of the country's great leaders.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who rose to political prominence in Trudeau's government, paid tribute to his mentor in a speech before Parliament.
"Pierre Trudeau was a man like no other, he was a man of brilliance and learning ... A man of grace and style," Chretien said. "A man of extraordinary courage. A complex man whose love of Canada was pure and simple."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.