Fidel Castro's death elicits tempered tributes from Quebec politicians

Tributes to Fidel Castro are coming in from every corner of Quebec politics in the wake of the former Cuban president's death late Friday night at the age of 90.

Political leaders highlight Quebec's long history of warm relations with Cuba

Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau travelled to Cuba in 1976 to meet with Fidel Castro. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Reaction to the death of Fidel Castro late Friday night at the age of 90 is coming in from every corner of Quebec politics. 

Quebec has a long history of warm relations with Cuba, epitomized by Pierre Trudeau's embrace of Castro in the 1970s when the country was still considered a pariah state by many in the west. 

Earlier this year, Quebec announced plans to open a permanent office in Havana.

The province's political leaders, however, were cautious for the most part in their responses to Castro's death.

On Twitter, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard called Castro "a giant of history who marked the 20th century" and offered his condolences to the Cuban people.

Christine St-Pierre, Couillard's minister of international relations, also tweeted the announcement that she had passed along Quebec's "sincere condolences."

The two followed up on their tweets with a news release in which Couillard recalled his visit to Cuba two months ago, when he met with Castro's brother and Cuba's current president,  Raul Castro.

"I was able to confirm that Cuban society, to which Fidel Castro contributed so much, is in the process of transforming and opening," Couillard said.

Parti Québécois leader Jean-Francois Lisée also called Castro a historic figure who "shaped the 20th century" in a news release.

"In their fight against the dictator Fulgencio Batista, Fidel Castro and his companions, especially Ernesto Che Guevara, embodied, at the start, the hope of liberty and justice," Lisée said.

"His regime was certainly more attentive to the needs of the Cuban people, especially in the areas of education and health, but his promise of liberty gave way to a new authoritarianism and the severe repression of free expression."

Stéphane Bergeron, the PQ's international relations critic, said politics have never stood in the way of the "friendship and solidarity" that Quebecers share with the Cuban people.

"We are whole-heartedly with the Cuban people at this time, and as they move into a new period in their history," Bergeron said.

'A bringer of hope, and despair'

Coalition Avenir Quebec leader Francois Legault also offered his sympathies in a news release.

Legault touched on Castro's mixed legacy as "liberator of his people and dictator, bringer of hope and despair."

Legault said this moment of grief for millions of Cubans was a time to focus on his accomplishments. He then pointed to improvements in education and health under his regime.

"The destiny of a people depends on education, and Fidel Castro never lost sight of that principle," Legault said.

"The world won't soon forget the old Commander in Chief."

Quebec Conservative MP Maxime Bernier was notably less politic in his response to Castro's death and took to Twitter to lambaste Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's tribute to the deceased dictator.

"Justin Trudeau's praise of Fidel Castro as a 'remarkable leader' is repugnant," Bernier tweeted in French alongside a graphic condemning Castro's human rights record.