Biography On Pierre Elliott Trudeau Essay

953 words - 4 pages

Pierre Trudeau's death on September 28, 2000, brought about a spontaneous outpouring of national pride and mourning perhaps unprecedented for any political leader in our history. To many Canadians, he was the very embodiment of the nation. Yet, by what means can we judge a life? In a recent book two historians ranked Pierre Trudeau a paltry fifth among Canada's prime ministers. If criteria for eminence were to include vision, force of character, style or intellect, then surely none but Macdonald would surpass Trudeau. He would be considered truly the second father of his country.There is a powerful irony in the nationalistic outpouring that followed Trudeau's death. He hated nationalism of all kinds and French-Canadian nationalism in particular. The whole idea of the nation state, he once wrote, "managed to cripple the advance of civilization." He argued throughout his life that nationalism was fundamentally racist and a threat to individual freedoms. This view was formed in Maurice Duplessis's Québec and hardened with the efflorescence of Québec nationalism during the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. His views were comforting to English Canadians threatened by the stirrings in Québec, but they increasingly alienated Québeckers. Hence the headline in La Presse on Trudeau's death, "The Hero of English Canada."Pierre Trudeau was more than that. For many Canadians he was the best in us. Fluently bilingual, of mixed parentage, he had charisma and style. In an era of politics starved of imagination and vision, Trudeau's ability to inspire passion is a poignant memory.From the very beginning Trudeau did not sound like other politicians. On February 28, 1968, when he announced his candidacy for the Liberal leadership, he quipped "To be quite frank, if I try to analyze it, well, I think in the subconscious mind of the press it started out like a huge practical joke on the Liberal Party." This insouciance could as easily sound glib and uncaring. His infamous musing in Winnipeg, "Well, why should I sell the Canadian farmers' wheat?" began a swell of indignation that has not abated. In 1969 he dismissed opposition MPs as "just nobodies." During the October Crisis of 1970 he scorned those who questioned his use of the army as "a lot of bleeding hearts." When pressed as to how far he would go, he said "well, just watch me." When asked by a reporter if a touch of arrogance is among his sins, Trudeau replied "I certainly have many sins, but I generally confess them to a priest and not to the press."Although he played a key role in laying the ground for the Quiet Revolution, Trudeau remained on the fringe of active politics until 1965. As federal minister of justice in early 1968, he put forward his constitutional proposals, which included national status for the French language, the freedom of French schooling across Canada, and a Charter of Rights to entrench the rights of citizens against governments.Trudeau tried to keep his promise...

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