Trudeau, Harper among Canadians paying tribute to U.S. Sen. John McCain

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote on Twitter that McCain was an American patriot and hero whose sacrifices for his country, and lifetime of public service, were an inspiration to millions.

McCain died on Saturday after battling brain cancer for more than a year

U.S. Sen. John McCain speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Canadian Embassy in Washington in June 2013 following a ceremony where he was bestowed an honorary doctorate by the Royal Military College of Canada. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press)

Canadian politicians are expressing their sympathies to the family of Arizona Sen. John McCain, who has died of brain cancer at the age of 81.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote on Twitter that McCain was an American patriot and hero whose sacrifices for his country, and lifetime of public service, were an inspiration to millions.

Conservative party Leader Andrew Scheer praised McCain on Twitter, writing that his decades of service in defence of freedom touched people across borders.

Former prime ministers also expressed their sympathies. Stephen Harper called McCain an American hero, while Brian Mulroney called the former Arizona senator a "committed friend of Canada" who "was a rare model of true bipartisanship, reaching across the aisle to work with friends on the other side, whenever he could."

Former Conservative party leader Peter MacKay tweeted that freedom-loving people everywhere are mourning the heartbreaking loss of a true voice for integrity and civility.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay and McCain attend the Halifax International Security Forum in Halifax in November 2010. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

McCain was a war veteran who was captured in North Vietnam in 1967 and endured years of torture and abuse.

The North Vietnamese had figured out that McCain, then 31, was the son and grandson of famous American military men — a "crown prince," they called him.

He was offered an early release, but refused. McCain's captors beat him until he confessed, an episode that first led to shame — and then discovery.

McCain has written that that's when he learned to trust not just his legacy but his own judgment — and his resilience.

He died on Saturday after battling brain cancer for more than a year.

Brain cancer didn't seem to scare McCain so much as it sobered and saddened him.

"The world is a fine place and worth fighting for and I hate very much to leave it," McCain wrote in his memoir, referencing a line from his favourite book, the Ernest Hemingway war novel For Whom the Bell Tolls.

"I hate to leave."


With files from Associated Press