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Brian Mulroney was 'always taking the call, or making the call': former governor general

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Former Canadian governor general Michaëlle Jean is remembering Brian Mulroney as "a strong voice," and caring man who never hesitated to pick up the phone.

"He was always, always taking the call, or making the call," she said in an interview with CTV News' Chief Political Correspondent Vassy Kapelos as part of CTV News Channel's special coverage.

"Never patronizing. Never, never. But, understanding, because I think that he went through also his own, challenges and solitude, so he could understand that of others, and that every word would matter," Jean said of the former Progressive Conservative prime minister.

Speaking after paying her respects to the Mulroney family holding vigil next to the former prime minister's casket, Jean said standing there, she could hear his voice.

The former governor general said it was important for her in that moment to speak to him, and say how she appreciated how he was there for her when she needed it.

"I always appreciated that," she said.

Jean was Canada's governor general between 2005 and 2010, and was the first Haitian Canadian and Black person to hold the office. While her time in the top role came after Mulroney's time as prime minister, Jean said Mulroney would call her amid "difficult" moments in her at-times contentious tenure, and always found the right words. 

"He understood exactly the solitude that I could experience," Jean said, adding it meant a lot to her for him to say she was not alone.

During his time in office, Mulroney faced times of hardship, including deep unpopularity over his decision to advance the still-in-effect Goods and Services Tax (GST) and free trade deal with the U.S.

In his tribute in the House of Commons on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared to allude to this, stating that while Mulroney and his family felt the sting of criticism, "on the big things, they also know full well that he would not let himself succumb to temporary pressure."

"He was motivated by service and those things, those big things, have stood the test of history, four decades and counting," Trudeau said.

A 'statesman' who would 'persist'

Echoing the current prime minister's remarks on Tuesday, Jean said Mulroney "belonged to a political party, but he would be many times above that… He showed that there is something bigger than yourself."

Speaking first to reporters outside the Sir John A. Macdonald Building on Wellington Street, where Mulroney is lying in state, Jean remembered the former prime minister as a "statesman" who "would persist when others would just give up."

The example she gave was Mulroney's fight against apartheid and his advocacy to see Nelson Mandela released. Jean said when the two attended Mandela's funeral, Mulroney shared with her how he had called other world leaders including then-U.S. president Ronald Reagan to tell them they were not doing enough.

"The day Nelson Mandela was released, on Feb.11, 1990, it was a great day for Brian Mulroney," Jean said. "It was a day he had hoped and pleaded for with the greatest conviction."

Elaborating on this memory in the interview with Kapelos, Jean said the way he stood up for the cause was "epic."

"Prime minister Mulroney was a strong voice speaking, you know, from the Canadian perspective. But, knowing that the power of influence of Canada is real, and he made it real."

You can watch Jean's full interview with Kapelos in the player at the top of this article.

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