During the late 1940's and the 1950's, Trudeau became concerned
about the political situation in Quebec. The province was governed
by Premier Maurice Duplessis and the Union Nationale party. Trudeau
and a group of youthful liberal friends set out to expose what
they saw as dishonesty in the provincial government. They believed
this corruption had resulted from political, religious, and business
leaders working together to prevent reforms. To express their
ideas, they established the magazine Cite Libre (Community of
the free). Trudeau worked in many ways for reform in Quebec.
French Canadians demanded more than democratic reform for Quebec.
They had always struggled against what they believed was discrimination
by Canada's English-speaking majority. Many French Canadians told
of being refused jobs in government and industry because they
spoke French. They feared that the French language would be lost
along with their national identity, culture and customs. During
the 1960's demands for separation from Canada became even higher.
On the other hand Trudeau favored preserving the French culture
in Canada. But he opposed the creation of any country in which
nationality was the only major common bond. Trudeau decided in
1965 to enter national politics and run for a seat in the house
of commons as a member of the Liberal Party. Trudeau used this
position to influence the government's policy on constitutional
issues. He wanted the constitution changed to provide a stronger
Federal government and promote more co-operation among the provinces.
Trudeau favored a tax program that would divide tax money more
fairly among the provinces. The government adopted this kind of
Trudeau wanted to strengthen Canada's independence in world affairs.
Early in his term, he changed the nation's defense arrangements
and expanded its relations with China and the Soviet Union.
Trudeau returned to Montreal and devoted his energy to opposing
the Union National government of Maurice DUPLESSIS and agitating
for social and political change. With other young intellectuals
he founded the review CITE LIBRE. In this and other forums, Trudeau
sought to rouse opposition to what he believed were reactionary
and inward-looking elites. In the process, he picked up a reputation
as a radical and a socialist, although the values he espoused
were closer to those of liberalism and democracy .He wanted the
constitution changed to provide a stronger federal government
and to promote more co-operation among the provinces. For example,
Trudeau believed the wealthy provinces should help support the
poorer ones. He favored a tax program that would divide tax money
more fairly among the province. In March 1966, the government
adopted this kind of plan.
After the Liberal victory in the 1960 provincial election, the
Quiet Revolution fulfilled some of Trudeau's hopes for change.
At the same time, it revealed a deep rift between Trudeau and
many of his former colleagues who were moving toward the idea
of an independent Quebec. Trudeau became a sharp critic of the contemporary Quebec nationalism
and argued for a Canadian Federalism in which English and French
Canadian would find a new equality.
The energetic and wealthy Trudeau generated great interest among
Canadians, particularly the nation's youth. But during the late
1970's, his popularity and that of his party declined as Canada's
economic problem worsened. The Progressive Conservatives defeated
the Liberals in May 1979, and the Conservatives leader, Charles
Joseph Clark, succeeded Trudeau as Prime Minister. However, Clark's
government fell from power at the end of the year, and Trudeau
led the Liberals to an easy victory in February 1980.
When Lester Pearson resigned as prime minister in 1968, Trudeau
was invited to run as a candidate. He won the Liberal leadership
convention and called an election immediately after. Capitalizing
on his extraordinary popular appeal, labelled "Trudeau mania"
by the press, he won a majority government in the June election.
One of the most important bills passed by his government was the
Official Language Act, guaranteeing bilingualism in the civil
Having accomplished his goal of strengthening Canada federalism,
Trudeau turned his attention to international affairs, campaigning
for world peace and improving the relationship between the industrialized
nations and Third World countries.
The most dramatic event of his first government was the October
Crisis of 1970, precipitated by the kidnaping of British diplomat
James Cross and of Cabinet minister Pierre Laporte by the terrorist
Front De Liberation Du Quebec (FLQ). In response, Trudeau invoked
the WAR MEASURES ACT, with its extraordinary powers of arrest,
detention and censorship. Shortly after, Laporte was murdered
by his abductors. Controversy over the appropriateness of these
emergency measures and their effect on liberal democracy in Canada
and Quebec has continued to be present.
Less dramatic, but of lasting significance, was the OFFICIAL LANGUAGE
ACT, a central feature of Trudeau's new federalism. At the same
time, he began to improve the position of Francophobe in Ottawa.
A growing anti-bilingual backlash in English Canada, however,
was one result of these policies. Western Canada's growing alienation
against a perceived lack of interest in western economic problems
and in western perspectives on national issues also began in his
Although very much along the lines of administrative reorganization
in Washington and in other Western capitals, these changes proved
controversial, leading critics to charge inefficiency and the
undermining of the role of parliament and cabinet. In the 1972
election, Trudeau came closer to losing office and was forced
to form a Minority Government with the support of the NDP.
After restoring a Liberal majority in 1974, Trudeau faced the
effects of inflation. In an atmosphere of economic crisis, various
expedients were tried, including mandatory wage and price controls
in 1975. This economic crisis was compounded in 1976 when the
Parti Quecbecois under Rene Leveque was elected to office, party
and man dedicated to Quebec independence.
In 1979 Trudeau and the Liberals suffered a narrow defeat at the
polls. A few months later, he announced his intention to resign
as Liberal leader and retire from public life. Three weeks later
after his announcement, the Progressive Conservation government
of Joe Clark was defeated in the Commons and a new general election
was called. Trudeau was persuaded by the Liberal caucus to remain
as leader, and on February 8, 1980 less than 3 months after his
retirement he was returned once more again as prime minister with
a parliamentary majority, thus accomplishing a remarkable-resurrection.
Trudeau's last period in office as prime minister was eventful.
His personal intervention in the 1980 Quebec Referendum campaign
on Sovereignty-Association was significant. The defeat of the
Parti Québécois's proposition was a milestone in
his crusade against Quebec separation. In the wake of that victory,
Trudeau pushed strongly for an accord on a new Canadian constitution.
He was unable to gain provincial agreement, he introduced into
Parliament a unilateral federal initiative to "patriate"
the BNA Act to Canada with an amending formula and an entrenched
Canadian Character of Rights and Freedoms. There followed one
of the epic federal-provincial battles of Canadian history, culminating
in the final compromise and the proclamation of the Constitution
Act, 1982 on April 17.
A Continuing problem that plagued his entire term of office was
that of Canadian-America Relations. Trudeau often played an ambiguous
role with regard to the U.S, but in his last period in office
he moved toward a more nationalist position in economic relations
with the U.S, and began to criticize its foreign and defense policies
more freely than in the past. At the same time the policies of
U.S. Pre Reagan's administration were becoming more damaging to
many of Canada's economic interests.
In these years Trudeau devoted more and more time to the international
stage, first to encouraging a "North-South" dialogue
between the wealthy industrial nations and the underdeveloped
countries, and then in 1983-84 to a personal peace initiative
in which he visited leaders in several countries in both the eastern
and western blocs to persuade them to negotiate the reduction
of nuclear weapons and to lower the level of Cold War tensions.
These activities led to his being awarded the Albert Einstein
Trudeau's career as prime minister was one of electoral success,
matched in this century only Mackenzie King. Moreover, he served
longer than every other contemporary leader in the Western world,
becoming the elder statesman of the West. His achievements include
the 1980 defeat of Quebec separation, official bilingualism, the
patriated Constitution and the Charter of Rights.
Trudeau was unable, however, to alleviate the alienation of Western
Canada or end the conflict between Federal and Provincial governments.
He left office much as he had entered it, a controversial figure
with strong supporters and equally strong critics. That he was
one of the dominant figures in 20th-century Canada is indisputable.
The World Book Encyclopedia , Toronto, Sydney, page 461 copyright
Internet file, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, web address unknown
Nov 11, 2000.
Magazine, Maclean's April 2, 1990 "Two visions of
Encyclopedia, Comptons, Toronto, copyright 1988 book 23.