Pierre Trudeau


Pierre Trudeau, former Prime Minister of Canada, was once
described as "A French Canadian proud of his identity and
culture, yet a biting critic of French-Canadian society,
determined to destroy its mythology and illusions". He has
also been identified as "A staunch, upholder of provincial
autonomy holding the justice portfolio in the federal government". Such cumulative appraisal and observation made
by past fellow bureaucrat provides high testimonial for the
ex-Democratic Socialist. This critique will establish and
dispute the prime directives that Trudeau had advocated in
his own book written during the years 1965 to 1967. The
compilation of political essays featured in his book deal
with the diverse complexities of social, cultural and
economical issues that were predominant in Canadian
politics during the mid 1960's. However, throughout my
readings I was also able to discover the fundamental
principles that Trudeau would advocate in order to
establish a strong and productive influence in Canadian
politics. Born in 1921, Trudeau entered the world in a
bilingual/bicultural home located in the heart of Montreal,
Quebec. His acceptance into the University of Montreal
would mark the beginning of his adventures into the
Canadian political spectrum. Early in his life, Trudeau had
become somewhat anti-clerical and possessed communist
ideologies which were considered radical at the time.
Graduating from prestigious institutions such as Harvard
and The School of Economics in England, Turdeau returned to
Canada in 1949 and resumed his social science endeavors. At
this time in Quebec, the province was experiencing
tremendous cultural and political differences with the rest
of the country. The Union Nationale had taken possession of
political matters in Quebec and was steadily dismantling
the socialist essence imposed on the province by the
Federal government. The current Prime Minister, Maurice
Duplessis, found himself battling a religious nationalist
movement that corrupted the very fabric of political
stability in Quebec. The Duplessis faction maintained their
conservative approach towards political reform but failed
to sway the majority of the population into alleviating
with the demands of the Canadian government. The citizens
of Quebec revered their clerical sector as holding 'utmost
importance' towards preserving French cultural values and
this did not correlate with the Federal government's
policies and ideals. Francophones were under the impression
that their own Federal government had set out to crush and
assimilate what had remained of their illustrious heritage
in order to accommodate economic and political tranquility.
Trudeau himself had decided to join the nationalist
uprising with his advocation of provincial autonomy.
Ultimately, he and other skilled social scientists
attempted to bring down the Duplessis party in 1949, but
failed miserably in their efforts. Duplessis buckled
underneath the continuous pressure of French patriotism and
was rewarded for his inept idleness by winning his fourth
consecutive election in 1956. Although nothing of
significance had been accomplished, Quebec has solidified
its temporary presence in confederation at such a time.
This prompted Trudeau to involve himself in provincial
diplomacy as he would engage in several media projects that
would voice his displeasure and disapproval with the
ongoing cultural predicament in Canada (this included a
syndicated newspaper firm, live radio programs). "If, in
the last analysis, we continually identify Catholicism with
conservatism and patriotism with immobility, we will lose
by default that which is in play between all cultures...".
By literally encouraging a liberal, left- wing revolution
in his province, Trudeau believed that Democracy must come
before Ideology. Gradually, his disposition would attract
many politicians and advocates of Socialism, and thus it
allowed him to radiate his ideology onto the populace of
Quebec. Trudeau makes it clear in his book that during the
early years of the Duplessis government, he was a staunch
admirer of provincial autonomy, but with the archaic
sequence of events following the conflicts that arouse
between Federal and Provincial matters in Quebec, he had
taken a stance on Federalism that involved security,
economic prosperity and centralized authority. It wasn't
until 1963 when the newly appointed Premier of Quebec, Rene
Levesque, warned that there must be a new Canada within
five years or Quebec will quit confederation. It was not
until 1965 that a man named Pierre Trudeau entered
politics. It is at this point in his anthology that I
was able to surmise the radical and unorthodox political
convictions that the soon-to-be Prime Minister would
incorporate into Canada. His thesis is focused around
pertinent issues which demanded attention at the time.
After he elaborates on the importance of Federalism and how
it is associated with Quebec, the reader begins to
interpret the resolutions he offers and then finds himself
comprehending the dilemma that French Canadians face in
Canada. In the wake of a constitutional referendum, such
knowledge can be viewed as ironically significant. A
defender of civil rights and freedoms, Trudeau, even as a
teenager, was adamantly opposed to supporting any political
theory based on ethnic tendencies; he makes this clear on
an essay in the book entitled: "Quebec and the
Constitutional Problem". He was convinced that not only the
divided jurisdiction of a federal state helped protect the
liberty of its citizens but also that in fact the economic,
social and cultural goods of Quebec can best be achieved
with a Canadian federal state. It seemed that an archetypal
Trudeau Federal infrastructure would be one where each
level of government would function on its own jurisdiction.
In doing so, Trudeau would voice his admiration for the
Bill of Rights and how he would concentrate on developing a
Federal government for the individual. It was not until
1962 that Trudeau actually began defending Federalism for
what it represented to the average labourer, but the fact
that Quebec seemed to convert provincial autonomy into an
absolute forced him to reconsider his political stance.
Joining the struggling Liberal party in 1965, his only
coinciding proposition with that of his party was the
advocation of an open Federal system. Nonetheless, it
marked the beginning of a political career that would take
him to the heights of power in his dominion. "My
political action, or my theory - insomuch as I can be said
to have one - can be expressed very simply: create
counter-weights". The measure of a man can be traced to his
ideological convictions, and in doing so, I have only
started to realize the prominent role that Trudeau has
played in Canadian politics. He was heralded as a radical,
somewhat of a usurper and definitely a socialist mogul, but
what was clear about Trudeau was his respect and admiration
for liberties of the common man and how they were preserved
from the clutches of Federal policies. This respect would
not be replaced at any cost during his tenure and as he
forecasted the ensuing constitutional dilemma with a very
impartial, non-partisan outlook, he would primarily
concentrate on two factors (economic and linguistic) which
offered practical conclusions without chaotic implications.
Trudeau envisioned himself in power, speculating two
choices he would offer to Quebec; full sovereignty or
maximized integration into the American continent. But what
Trudeau avoided treading upon was the infringement of state
policies on the individual's rights and freedoms. Many
members of the Federal government believed that Trudeau did
not speak on behalf of French Canadians but that he
substituted their cultural plight with his own theories.
This generated the following response: "If the party does
not agree with my opponents, it can repudiate me; if my
constituents do not, they can elect someone else". Trudeau
maintains that he dedicated his anthology in order for
others to understand the problems that French Canadians
faced in terms of cultural progress, and I am compelled to
conclude that his involvement with the Federal regime may
have saved the country for twenty years...unfortunately, he
was unable to complete the affirmation of his ideology into
the French Canadian scope and thus Canada today is
contemplating the outcome of another constitutional
referendum. is failure to absolve the constitution of any
future repercussions with the masses should not be viewed
as a political error, but as an ideological truth which he
exhibited since 1965 (the addition of the "notwithstanding"
clause). Trudeau's book covers an immense amount of
historical and idealistic content. Published in 1965, it is
fascinating to read and discover how intently and closely
he would follow his ideologies as he would eventually
ascend to the position of Prime Minister. His reliability
would be questionable at the time (based on limited
experience as a politician) but the fact that he had
submerged himself into a field which required innovative
and pragmatic thought led me to believe that his Federalist
stance would eventually be justified in Canadian history.
With a superlative writing style, his use of vocabulary and
terminology aided the reader in understanding his
convictions. Not even this reader expected such a barrage
of political jargon. Recent events in Canada have
somewhat curtailed the ambience dealing with this critique
in respects to the opinions exhibited on behalf of the
author and reviewer. Trudeau takes obvious pride in his
ideological perspective of multicultural Canada, and in
doing so one might expect a partisan, biased array of
resolutions. This, however, is not the case. This book
leaves room for educational prowess without any noticeable
weaknesses. Federalism and the French Canadians is an
insightful, ideological anthology that could be found
especially useful to other politics students who wish to
examine the importance of cultural and social values in a
country missing a stable political doctrine (and perhaps a
leader, no less). 

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