Former Canadian Prime Minster Pierre Elliott Trudeau, died on 28 September 2000, at age 80.

He was the first Canadian prime minister born in the 20th century. Canada has not seen another like him. He patriated Canada's constitution, made bilingualism official and advocated a just society in turbulent times. He held forceful opinions, delighted in debate, did not suffer fools, and was loathed by separatists. Canada had not seen such a powerful figure since Sir Wilfrid Laurier or Sir John A. Macdonald. His dramatic style will be missed.

The Right Honourable Pierre Elliot Trudeau will always be the Prime Minister to an entire generation of Canadians. I was born in 1964, and can vaguely remember the 1968 leadership convention where he became Prime Minister. (We were somewhere with a colour TV, all that I remember is the red-orange Trudeau signs waving.)

Trudeau led the Liberal Party and Canada as Prime Minister from 1968-1979 and after a brief interregnum named Charles Joseph Clark, from 1980-1984. From the time I was 4 until I was 20, I had essentially never known another leader. All Canadians who lived through those times were strongly affected. Many in Quebec and the prairie provinces grew to hate him. The Official Languages Act, the national debt, the War Measures Act, Petro Canada, the National Energy Policy, the Salmon Arm Salute -- all his legacy. Yet he repatriated the constitution. He reformed divorce law, and gave rights to the homosexual community. He defeated René Lévesque and the Parti Quebecois in the crucial 1980 referendum that might have been the end of Canada. He was a true leader on the world stage. He helped to make us proud to be Canadian.

The cast of characters that followed, from the charismaless John Turner, to the rapacious Brian Mulroney, to the ineffectual Kim Campbell, failed to even approach recapturing his magic. Even Jean Chretien, his former peer in the House of Commons and the Justice Minister with whom Trudeau brought in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is but a wan shadow.

I cried today. I felt incalculably older today. I felt that a little bit of magic had gone out of Canada's soul. His passing leaves a void which the Stockwell Days of today can never hope to fill.

Today he joins youngest son Michel, killed last year in an avalanche while skiing in British Columbia.

Goodbye, Prime Minister.
With Thanks and Forgiveness.
Go with God.

I was in California the Trudeaumania election campaign of 1968; my family an I listened to some of the returns on NPR. I'm not sure how many elections since have been so covered.

My sojourn in San Francisco was cut short because of the change in policy that Trudeau, as new Prime Minister, initiated. My father, who worked for the Canadian Government in a non-consular capacity, had his whole function--attracting skilled Americans, and Central Americans, and South Americans to Canada--terminated.

Part of Lord Brawl's history, shows the policy that Trudeau altered, or created. And that is probably his greatest legacy.

From his days in Quebec as a contributor to the fifties' periodical, Cite Libre, in opposition to the then premier, Maurice Duplessis, to his time as professor of law, before being called to Ottawa by Lester B. Pearson, through his transformation of the Government, Pierre Trudeau was always an intellectual.

A stylish intellectual, to be sure, whether fop turning a pirouette behind the Queen, or as gunslinger during election campaigns, or saying "Just watch me!" before declaring martial law, and invoking the War Measures Act during the FLQ crisis--he was always brilliant.

Some still hate him, some even loved him--though the personal man was never on display. His apparant affaires with Barbra Streisand, and others were only hinted at in the press, both popular and serious. And his life after his wife Margaret left him, was very private.

But for good or ill--probably good and ill, it was the mind of Pierre Eliot Trudeau that has shaped modern Canada.

We should be lucky to have such intellect in government today.

I only lived within smelling distance of Trudeaumania, on the wrong side of the Great Big Undefended Border, but the mania reached nonetheless -- PET, plus a fascination with bilingual boxes of Capitaine Crouche, reruns of Gilligan's Island dubbed en français on SRC, and the PA announcers at the Forum and Parc Jarry (...numéro sept... l'arrêt-court... BOBBY... WINE!), led me to start learning French. It was only years later that I learned that the Prime Minister wasn't trying to get everybody to speak both official languages. Never mind.

He was always ahead of his time: the first "Mr. Mom" PM, after the young missus ran off to party with the Stones (or something); the first cabinet minister to go "business casual", in his sandals and such in the House of Commons -- long before multimillionaire Lamar Alexander campaigned for president in a lumberjack shirt to show how "real" he was, Trudeau dressed like the swinging law prof he was. PET was sincerely difficult, which remains a breath of fresh air, in the face of an endless stream of politicians who are all about demonstrating how "real" they are, and how they "understand" your problems (and have "solutions") and "feel your pain".

Long before George W. Einstein insulted a New York Times reporter off-mike, then made up some lame excuse for his outburst, Trudeau gleefully gave a group of detractors the binary four, and coyly coined the phrase fuddle duddle to "cover" for his use of one of Those Seven Words in a House debate. He even had his "go ahead, make my day" moment: the "Just watch me" statement, in response to growing threats of FLQ violence; but unlike George Bush, this wasn't some lame campaign catchphrase -- the PM invoked the War Measures Act a year or so later, after the kidnappings of James Cross and Pierre Laporte.

He was the larger than life leader of a not-actual-size country, with more charisma in his little (uh...) finger than, etc, etc, and that got him over the hump in the opinion polls and elections over the years -- he was hated in every region and stratum of the country at one time or another, whether he'd provoked the souvereignists, the Rest of Canada, the wheat farmers, Uncle Luigi, Aunt Tess, or the oil men because of this or that policy.

He's gone, but you can still smell some faded perfume of the mania, from the bilingual food packaging, to the news update on some Radio-Canada affiliate in a heavy anglophone part of the country (you wonder if anyone's actually listening), to some of the saner separatists, to the neo-con (emphasis on the last syllable) efforts by people like Ralph Klein and Mike Harris (and even people like Harris' predecessor, nominal socialist Bob Rae, and nominal Liberal Paul Martin) to reverse the growth of the welfare state that had gained steam in the early years of Trudeau's rule.

But beyond the charisma and controversy, there's this one thing that remains with me, just a simple sentence, but one that has had staying power over the years:

"The state has no place in the nation's bedrooms." -- Justice Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 1967

I lift my bong to you, sir.

Well, I would if I had one.

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