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.