Tag Archives: Pierre Elliott Trudeau


Canada is a great country, having seen mostly peace for all of its existence, and being one of the countries whose history is almost impeccably laudable. Building that amazing history has partly been due to the fact that our leaders have mostly done the right thing for our country. And when the topic of good leaders come, our modern history has seen one whose name always stands out. Pierre Trudeau, the father of current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been an inspiration for an entire generation, with his wonderful period as a Prime Minister.

A personality that dominated the entire country with such ferocity as never seen in our country’s history, Pierre Trudeau had a great career as a popular political figure, loved by many. Beginning his career as a lawyer and activist in Quebec politics, Trudeau joined the Liberal Party in 1960s, and was quickly appointed the Parliamentary Secretary of Lester B. Pearson. He went on to become the Minister of Justice of the country. Such was his following that some even give it the term “Trudeaumania.” He stayed as Prime Minister for a long period, before resigning from his post finally in 1984. His leadership has been seen as a remarkable, and often favorably polarizing period for Canada.

An example of him holding tight to his decision in a crisis is the FLQ episode. Canadians were shocked on October 19, 1970 when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and the House of Commons passed the War Measures Act.

The federal and Quebec governments where struggling with the Front de Liberation du Quebec(FLQ). The had kidnapped British Trade Commissioner James Cross on October 5. They held him for a ransom of $500,000 and demanded that the CBC broadcast the FLQ manifesto.

Then they abducted Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte on October 10; his body was discovered eight days later.

At one point, from the steps of parliament, the press asked him about the extreme implementation of the War Measures Act, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau replied, “Just watch me.” That statement would forever become a part of Trudeau’s legacy.

Some of his biggest national achievements during his term as Prime Minister were suppressing the Quebec sovereign movement, and building Canada as a nation with unity as a core principle. He is also known for introducing bilingualism as official policy of Canada, and for his Patriation of the Constitution. It was under him that Canada stopped being ruled by British laws that could be changed by the British, and it was the moment when Canada finally got sovereignty. This event has had him hailed as the “father of modern Canada”.

PM Pierre Trudeau doing a pirouette behind the Queen

Every great person has critics, and so did Pierre Trudeau. His critics impugn him with claims of arrogance and poor economic management, and of having centralized the management of Canada (which has been hailed as a very good thing by others), thus robbing Quebec of the culture and economy of Prairies. But whatever the naysayers speak, Trudeau has been consistently shown up in a list of the greatest Prime Ministers of Canada.

Pierre Trudeau has been considered one of the most loved, and the most hated of the Canadian Prime Ministers. This is because of the charisma and confidence that he held, along with his focus on uniting Canada and making sure that the country has one holistic identity. But he is also known for his antipathy towards his political opponents, and his dislike for any sort of compromise have also gained him some critics. In fact, it has been said the it was Mackenzie King, who was the only other person who had matched such levels of electoral success as Pierre Trudeau. This mad made Canada what it is today, fought for recognition, and suppressed any factional uprisings to make the country whole. That is something that is going to be on the history books forever.


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Trudeau Elected

Trudeau about to make his victory speech. Line...

Trudeau about to make his victory speech. Lined up behind him are the other leadership candidates. View Clip (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the night of April 6, 1968, after seven hours of voting, Canadians suddenly realized that their next Prime Minister would be Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a perfectly bilingual bachelor playboy who had flashed from obscurity to the most powerful position in the nation in one year.  In fact, he had only been a member of Parliament since 1965 and did not enter the Cabinet until April 4, 1967, when he became Minister of Justice.

Trudeau’s victory was the result of a spectacular leadership convention conducted in American hullabaloo style.  The nation watched on television as he defeated seven other strong contenders in the most fantastic political spectacle in Canadian history.  One of them was Paul Martin who had been a member of Parliament for thirty-five years and who had often served as acting Prime Minister.  The others were Robert Winters, Joseph Greene, Paul Hellyer, Allan MacEachern, Eric Kierans, and John Turner.

Trudeau’s election as leader of the Liberal  Party meant that he would become Canada‘s fifteenth Prime Minister on April 20.  Yet some of the most experienced political observers in Ottawa knew little about his background.  Few Canadians know much about it today.

He was born in Montreal in 1919, son of wealthy lawyer Charles-Emile Trudeau and Grace Elliott.  He studied law at the University of Montreal and political economy at Harvard, with further studies in Paris and London.  Then he spent years travelling through most of the world.

Gradually Trudeau became active in Quebec politics and supported the socialist New Democratic Party in the general election of 1963.  He attacked Liberal leader Lester Pearson for reversing his stand on nuclear arms for Canada, saying, “Power offered itself to Mr. Pearson; he had nothing to lose except his honour.  He lost it, and his entire party lost it with him.”

Yet Trudeau became Liberal M.P. for a Montreal constituency in 1965.  The Liberal party accepted him reluctantly, but they had to admit him to get the powerful Quebec Labor leader, Jean Marchand, to be a candidate.

The new Prime Minister’s flamboyant life style and eccentric manner in conducting government affairs soon attracted attention the world over.  Many people for the first time sat up and took notice of Canada because of the man who took it upon himself to  ignore the conventions of statesmanship.  In 1971, at the age of 51, Trudeau became the first prime minister to wed while in office when he married 22-year-old Margaret Sinclair.  On Christmas day of the same year a son was born to them.  Justin Pierre Trudeau was the second child born to a prime minister during his term of office (see December 25th’s post).

There is so much “out there” about Mr. Trudeau. I don’t want to turn this post into a book, plus I know I can’t list all the places to click to. However, here’s a short list:

For a real simple timeline, go to Jean; there’s an interesting layout at Craig Marlatt’s Canada Info (while you are there, I suggest visiting the rest of his site – there’s lots of info there!; for an in-depth article, I suggest the Dictionary of Canadian Biography; there’s also the ever reliable Wikipedia; you can never go wrong with CBC Archives; I suggest visiting The Trudeau Foundation [The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation promotes outstanding research in the humanities and social sciences, and fosters a fruitful dialogue between scholars and policymakers in the arts community, business, government, the professions, and the voluntary sector.]; you can find interesting details at Canadian Museum of Civilization. Don’t forget Google Canada.


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