Justin Trudeau won't attend Fidel Castro's funeral after angering critics of Cuba


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who faced a storm of criticism from political opponents after praising recently deceased Cuban leader Fidel Castro as a "remarkable," "larger than life leader who served his people," has chosen not to attend Castro's funeral on Tuesday.

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The BBC reported "Canada will be represented by Governor General David Johnston at a memorial service in Havana," despite the long-running friendship between Castro and Trudeau's father, former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

Trudeau's statement, released on Saturday after news of Castro's death, said: "It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba's longest serving President. Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation."

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Pope Francis (L) and former Cuban President Fidel Castro hold hands in Havana, Cuba, September 20, 2015. Picture taken September 20. REUTERS/Alex Castro/AIN/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. IT IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.
Former Cuban president Fidel Castro and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill meet in Havana February 13, 2016. REUTERS/JUVENTUD REBELDE/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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"While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro's supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for 'el Comandante,'" Trudeau added.

Leading the criticism were opposition Conservatives, according to Reuters, with former Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier issuing a statement asking "Does Trudeau believe his historic family ties with Castro are more important than our economic interests and the future of millions of Canadian workers?"

As the Globe and Mail reported, in 1976 Pierre Trudeau was the first leader of a NATO country to visit Cuba under Castro's rule. In the decades before, Trudeau had been a reformist battling the anti-Communist government led by Premier Maurice Duplessis. The two leaders became fast friends. According to the Globe and Mail, Pierre Trudeau told his sons "about the pleasures of diving and fishing for urchins with the Cuban leader," and Castro gave both Justin and Alexandre Trudeau "big bear hugs" at the elder Trudeau's funeral in 2000.

The criticism has additionally spawned some more ludicrous elements, with some like U.S. far-right commentator Mike Cernovich pointing to a 1976 photo of Castro holding Trudeau's late brother Michel as evidence for completely baseless theories that the Cuban leader fathered Pierre Trudeau's children.

RELATED: U.S. presidents ranked by their net worth:

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Ranking the US presidents by net worth
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Ranking the US presidents by net worth
43. Harry S. Truman: <$1 million

33rd President (1945-1953)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

42. Calvin Coolidge: <$1 million

30th President (1923-1929)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

41. Woodrow Wilson: <$1 million

28th President (1913-1921)

(Photo by JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado/Getty Images)

40. Chester A. Arthur: <$1 million

21st President (1881-1885)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

39. James A. Garfield: <$1 million

20th President (1881-1881)

(Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

38. Ulysses S. Grant: <$1 million

18th President (1869-1877)

(Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

37. Andrew Johnson: <$1 million 

17th President (1865-1869)

(Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

36. Abraham Lincoln: <$1 million

16th President (1861-1865)

(Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).

35. James Buchanan: <$1 million

15th President (1857-1861)

(Photo by Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images)

34. Warren G. Harding: $1 million

29th President (1921-1923)

(Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

33. William McKinley: $1 million

25th President (1897-1901)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

32. Franklin Pierce: $2 million

14th President (1853-1857)

(Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

31. William Howard Taft: $3 million

27th President (1909-1913)

(Photo by: Liverani/Andia/UIG via Getty Images)

30. Rutherford B. Hayes: $3 million

19th President (1877-1881)

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

29. Millard Fillmore: $4 million

13th President (1850-1853)

(Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
28. Benjamin Harrison: $5 million

23rd President (1889-1893)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

27. William Henry Harrison: $5 million

9th President (1841-1841)

(Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

26. Zachary Taylor: $6 million 

12th President (1849-1850)

(Photo by Bettman via Getty Images)

25. Jimmy Carter: $7 million

39th President (1977-1981)

(Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

24. Gerald Ford: $7 million

38th President (1974-1977)

(Photo via Bettman via Getty Images)

23. Barack Obama: $7 million

44th President (2009-present)

(Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

22. Dwight Eisenhower: $8 million

34th President (1953-1961)

(Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

21. James K. Polk: $10 million

11th President (1845-1849)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

20. Ronald Reagan: $13 million

40th President (1981-1989)

(Photo by Harry Langdon/Getty Images)

19. Richard Nixon: $15 million

37th President (1969-1974)

(Photo by Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

18. John Adams: $19 million

2nd President (1797-1801)

(Photo by Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images)

17. George W. Bush: $20 million

43rd President (2001-2009)

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

16. John Quincy Adams: $21 million

6th President (1825-1829)

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

15. George H. W. Bush: $23 million

41st President: (1989-1993)

(Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

14. Grover Cleveland: $25 million

22nd and 24th President (1885-1889) and (1893-1897)

(Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

13. Martin Van Buren: $26 million 

8th President: (1837-1841)

(Photo by Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images)

12. James Monroe: $27 million

5th President (1817-1825)

(Photo by: Getty Images)

11. John Tyler: $51 million

10th President (1841-1845)

(Photo by National Archive/Newsmakers)

10. Bill Clinton: $55 million

42nd President (1993-2001)

(Photo Bettmann via Getty Images)

9. Franklin D. Roosevelt: $60 million

32nd President (1933-1945)

(Photo by VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)

8. Herbert Clark Hoover: $75 million

31st President (1929-1933)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

7. Lyndon Johnson: $98 million

36th President: (1963-1969)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

6. James Madison: $101 million

4th President (1809-1817)

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

5. Andrew Jackson: $119 million

7th President (1829-1837)

(Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

4. Theodore Roosevelt: $125 million

26th President (1901-1909)

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

3. Thomas Jefferson: $212 million

3rd President (1801-1809)

(Photo by Kean Collection/Getty Images)

2. George Washington: $525 million

1st President (1789-1797)

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

2.* John F. Kennedy: $1 billion 

35th President (1961-1963)

*Had he lived, JFK would have inherited $1 billion from his father. 

(Photo via Bettmann via Getty Images)

1. Donald Trump: $3.5 billion

45th President (2017-)

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