Trudeau makes brief stop in Cape Breton to attend funeral

Mother of close friend and personal secretary’s Gerald Butts died

Published on May 17, 2016
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is shown entering Immaculate Conception Church in Bridgeport on Monday, May 16. He was in Cape Breton for the funeral for Rita Butts.
TC Media - Cape Breton Post

BRIDGEPORT — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Bridgeport briefly Monday to attend the funeral for Rita Butts.

Her son, Gerald, is Trudeau’s close friend and serves as his principal secretary. Rita, a mother of five, died last week at the age of 84.

Trudeau flew into the Sydney airport Monday morning and his motorcade arrived at Immaculate Conception Church in Bridgeport shortly before the service got underway at 11 a.m.

Following the funeral, he spoke with members of the Butts family outside the church and attended the reception in the parish hall, before departing from the airport around 1:15 p.m.

Trudeau’s security team surrounded the church throughout the morning.

Several Liberal MPs also attended the funeral, including Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner, Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking and St. John’s South-Mount Pearl MP Seamus O’Regan.

On Twitter Monday afternoon, Gerald Butts described the funeral as a great send-off for his mother.

“Thanks to so many friends & family for coming. She lived a long, full life. May we all be so blessed,” he wrote. “My dad died six years ago today, and today we buried our mom. You don’t get to choose your parents, but man did we luck out.”

In an interview with the Cape Breton Post last year following Trudeau’s election victory, Rita said she was excited for her son, who at that time was one of Trudeau’s key advisers.

"I'm so grateful that he accomplished what he set out to do," she said. “He enjoys what he does, that’s what makes it even that much more special."

Caroline McNeil, a friend of a member of the Butts family, attended Monday’s funeral and said she didn’t know Trudeau was there when she first took her seat in the church, but saw him as he helped a woman to her seat following communion. She said it was nice to see Trudeau there in support of Gerald and the Butts family.

“I thought it was just so sweet,” he said. “Being the prime minister, he thought of his friend and wanted to be here for his friend.”

ljgrant@cbpost.com