Volume 94, Issue 18


Editorial Board 2000-2001

A Canadian touchstone

Editorial cartoon

A Canadian touchstone

He was and will be for years to come, a giant in modern Canadian political history.

Yesterday afternoon it was announced that former Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau died of prostate cancer at the age of 80, leaving us with only a memory of one of the most dynamic periods in Canadian politics.

He stormed the Canadian political stage in 1968, the year after the centennial of Confederation. Almost immediately Canada, was entranced with his athletic prowess, his quick mind and of course his romantic attachments.

So was born Trudeaumania. Whether people loved him, or hated him, Canadians as a whole were completed fascinated with the life of Pierre Trudeau. He was a politician with an iron will, a charming smile, always wearing that red rose and never scared to face off against anyone. He was the man, who during the October crisis of 1970, enacted the War Measures Act suspending civil liberties and then turned to reporters and said, "Just watch me." Trudeau was the embodied excitement the country felt during the centennial celebration of 1967.

After 1970 the romance Canada had with Trudeau died a little, his economic policies at their very best could be considered flawed [the infamous National Energy Program for example]. His foreign policy, while often groundshaking, was a muddled mixture of practical impossibilities and idealistic dreams. Trudeau's greatest accomplishment came on April 17, 1982, with his dream of bringing the Constitution home and the creation of a Canadian Charter of Rights without Quebec. Trudeau was perhaps the greatest defender of a strong united Canada and he hoped that by creating a country of Canadians, Canada would no longer be divided by its regions. His Charter has shaped Canadian politics ever since.

In 1984, on the verge of another general election, the story goes that Trudeau went for a walk in a snowstorm in Montreal. When he came back he decided it was time to retire from politics. Over the years he would emerge to defend his Charter – his influence thwarted both the Meech Lake Accord in 1987 and the Charlottetown Accord in 1992. During the 1995 Quebec Referendum, when Canadians from all across the country gathered in Montreal, raising the maple leaf high into the air to defend Canada, one can almost see an older Trudeau watching it all with a smile, because before him stood the Canada he had created.

Pierre Trudeau has defined Canada for an entire generation, with the Charter of Rights and our very own Consitution. His legacy like most, will always be divided; did he make our country stronger, or did he only serve to make the nation more regional. Now as the sun sets on the enigmatic leader who always wore a rose on his left lapel; whether you liked him or hated him, at the very least you had to respect him, for his passion and his love for this country.

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