By building a truly just society, this beautiful, rich and energetic country of ours can become a model in which every citizen will enjoy his fundamental rights, in which two great linguistic communities and people of many cultures will live in harmony and in which every individual will find fulfillment.
- Pierre Elliot Trudeau at the Liberal Leadership Convention, 1968.
1919 - 2000
In 1999, the year before he succumbed to prostate cancer, the Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Canada's 15th Prime Minister, was named by Canadian Press as the Canadian newsmaker of the century. The reason for this is rather simple. Of all Canadian politicians, he has been the most controversial. Heck, we don't need to look any further than Goodbye, Pierre Elliott Trudeau to see that. In addition, in 2004, he was named by the CBC as the 3rd Greatest Canadian of all time.
Trudeau was stylish, eloquent, overbearing, flamboyant, arrogant and charismatic. He wouldn't take shit from anyone, whether we're talking political opponents, political allies, or terrorists.
He drove fast cars, he wore nice suits, with a red rose pinned to the lapel, or he did business in sandals. He swam 42 laps a day in a pool installed by a private donor at 24 Sussex Drive. He swore in the House of Commons. He was the first (and so far the last) Prime Minister of Canada to have a brown belt in Judo. He dated actresses and singers, and hung out with people from Lennon to Castro. He gave protestors the finger. He did a pirouette behind the Queen's back.
He was a devout catholic, but made abortion legal in Canada. He was, depending on who you talked to, a fascist and a socialist. He was a fascinating man.
All in all, he was the greatest politician that this country has ever seen. Who else could get away with what he got away with. Unfortunately, sometimes being the best politician doesn't really translate into being the best choice to actually lead the country.
He did manage to piss off a *lot* of people with his policies. When he started office, the national debt was $17Billion, when he exited, it was over $200Billion. And yet he still kept getting elected. Well, most of the time.
Received his B.A. from Jean de Brébeuf College in 1940, and then went on to get a law degree from the University of Montreal in 1943, and his Master's in Political Economics from Harvard in 1945. He also studied a year each at the École des sciences politiques in Paris, and the London School of Economics.
He spent several years traveling the world, before returning home to Canada. Back there, he championed union causes, and founded Citi Libre, a liberal magazine, one of the few publications that would speak out against the policies of Maurice Duplessis, then the premier of Quebec.
He taught constitutional law at the University of Montreal for six years before the Federal liberal party needed someone to run for a seat in the Montreal Mount Royal riding. The man they picked was him.
1965: First Elected as a member of parliament, for Mount Royal, Quebec.
1967: Trudeau is appointed Justice Minister. Amongst other things, on his own initiative, he proposes legislation that is one of the first steps towards making abortion legal in Canada. He later follows through as Prime Minister, removing the rest of the legal roadblocks, as well as removing any legislation pertaining to homosexuality.
1968: After a mere 3 years is politics, he is elected leader of the Federal Liberal Party, who have the most seats in the House of Commons, thus becoming the Prime Minister of Canada. He calls an election 3 days after he is sworn in. He wins this election, taking 155 of the 264 seats in the house of commons.
1969: The house of commons passes the Official Languages Act, which made Canada technically bilingual, French and English if you couldn't figure it out. As a result, all federal government services are required to be provided in French or English. Of course, a lot of people, especially out west, view this as a complete waste of taxpayer money.
1970: The October Crisis. Members of the Quebec Separatist Terrorist Group, the Front de Libération du Québec, or FLQ, kidnap James Cross, the British Trade Commissioner, and Pierre Laporte, the Quebec Labour Minister. This is following a long string of bombings spanning 7 years, in which they killed 7 people and injured many others.
In response, Trudeau convenes the house to invoke the War Measures Act, imposing martial law, to "root out the cancer of an armed, revolutionary movement that is bent on destroying the very basis of our freedom."
The FLQ end up killing Laporte, and releasing Cross, in exchange for allowing them to escape to Cuba.
1971: The fuddle duddle incident. Trudeau is pissed off at an opposition MP during question period, so calls him a Mother Fucker. At the time, he was out of earshot of all members of the press. Later on, when reporters question him about the incident, he claims all he said was Fuddle Duddle.
And on March 4, he marries Margaret Sinclair, the daughter of a former Liberal Cabinet minister, whom he met while vacationing in Tahiti. At the time, he was 51 and she was 22. Their first son, Justin, was born on Christmas day of this year.
1972: Another election. The Liberals manage to squeeze in, and hold on to a minority government, with the support of the NDP.
1973: Margaret gives birth to their 2nd child, freakishly again on Dec 25, another son, whom they named Alexandre.
1974: In May, the government fails a confidence vote in the House of Commons, which traditionally means that another election is immediately called. Trudeau leads the Liberals back to a majority government.
Later that year, he announced wage and price controls, designed to combat inflation. The cabinet only bothered to tell the provincial premiers about it that day.
1975: Margaret and Pierre had their 3rd son, Michel, this time on October 2nd.
1976: After the Parti Quebecois won a landslide victory in the provincial election, Trudeau again focused upon fighting separatism. The next year, he mentions that he would not be against using force to prevent Quebec from unilaterally declaring independence, or as he put it, "I'm not going to be shy about using the sword."
1977: Pierre and Margaret separate, and later divorce.
1979: Trudeau calls an election, which really doesn't go all that well. The Progressive Conservatives, under Joe Clark, win a minority government. Later that year, he resigns as head of the Liberal Party
However, Joe's government screws up a confidence vote, and is forced to call an election, about 6 months after the previous election. Somehow, someone manages to talk Pierre into returning to the leadership of the Liberal party. And, he manages to win the 1980 election, with the Liberals returning to power with a majority government.
His first task, after appointing Jeanne Sauve as the first female Speaker of the House of Commons, is to start campaigning for the no side in Quebec's sovereignty-association referendum in May, or as most people in the country saw it, the separation referendum.
Thankfully, the no side wins. Yay!
Later that year, his government implemented the National Energy Program, designed to protect Canadians from surges in oil prices, while at the same time increasing Canadian control and ownership in its national resources.
So, a number of foreign companies pulled out of the country, costing jobs. And the companies that were left were forced to sell oil to the rest of Canada at prices lower than worldwide market price.
Since the only province with any real oil and gas developments was Alberta, this hit them the hardest. Most people there viewed this simply as them subsidizing the heating bills of Eastern Canada, especially Quebec and Ontario. Support for the Federal Liberals disappeared overnight, and bumper stickers such as "Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark" popped up.
This would really be the first event that kicked off the start of any actual western independence movement. And, of course, a lot of them started to hate Trudeau. For many, the fact that he passed away didn't change that.
After this, Trudeau decides to make constitutional reform his main objective, including the patriation of the Canadian Constitution, and giving Canada a charter of rights and freedoms.
To start off with, before he could really work out a way to bring the Constitution, which was at the time an act of the British Parliament, to Canada, he needed to figure out how to change it in the future.
Some of the provinces opposed him, especially Quebec, who fought tooth and nail. They wanted special concessions worked into the constitution on account of them being a distinct society. Of course, Trudeau thought that was bullshit, after all, how can one group of people be any *more* distinct than another group of people?
Anyhow, he eventually gets fed up with bickering, so heads to London to get the amendment formula that he wrote accepted by their parliament. This really pisses off the provinces, which go straight to the Supreme Court of Canada to ask them if he can do this.
Well, they decide that yes, the Federal Government *can* do this, however they really *should* check with the provinces.
So, he heads back, and much more bickering ensues. Eventually, late one night, he hammers out a compromise with Ontario and Saskatchewan, and then asks the Premiers of 9 provinces if this was acceptable. They all said it was. Anyone wanna guess which province he didn't even bother asking?
Anyhow, it worked, the British Parliament passed it, and the Queen proclaimed it into law on April 25, 1982.
This same year, Trudeau also appoints Bertha Wilson, and Jeanne Sauve to be Canada's first female Supreme Court Justice, and Governor General respectively.
So, that having been done, Trudeau decides to go on a whirlwind tour of Europe, with the idea of easing tensions in the cold war. He doesn't do too badly, even gets nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Fortunately or Unfortunately, the Russian Communist Party leader Yuri Andropov died in the middle of this tour, so what was supposed to be peace talks in Moscow, turned into a funeral.
He returned to Canada, and resigned as Prime Minister later that year, 1984. From then on, he pretty much stayed out of the public eye. He went back to law, spent some more time teaching at the University of Montreal, and working for a law firm in the city. In 1985, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest honour that can be bestowed upon a Canadian citizen. In 1991, he fathered a daughter named Sarah, with Deborah Coyne. I can't really find much about her, other than the fact that she's a constitutional law expert. I suppose they met through work, after all, he did pretty much write it.
In 1998, his son Michel died in an avalanche in British Columbia. Those close to him say that he never really recovered from this blow.
In late 1999, he was hospitalized, and on September 28th, 2000, suffering from Parkinson's Disease and prostate cancer, he passed away.
Of course, because this was Trudeau, the controversy didn't stop after his death. There were those who didn't join in on the mourning, but actually celebrated in his demise. For example, there was a city councilor in Black Diamond, I believe it was, a small town near Calgary, who when the mayor brought in the news, and called for a moment of silence, decided instead to take off his cowboy hat, wave it around, and cheer. And, for some reason, I rather doubt that this was the only incident of the sort.
But, overall, the nation mourned. More so than they had for any other Prime Minister, or any other citizen for that matter.
The Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau lead a life that few could hope to match. A glamorous lifestyle combined with a lasting impact, in my opinion for the better, upon the future of the country that he loved. Few people could wish for more.
I wish I could have seen him in his prime, unfortunately, I was just getting old enough to start paying attention to this stuff when he was just entering his exile from the limelight.
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