End of an Era
By: Isaac A., St. Stephens High School, St. Stephens, NB
September 28, 2000 marked the end of an era for Canada. The most prolific and influential Canadian leader of the second half of the 20th century, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, passed away at his home in Montreal. He was 80 years old.
Trudeau first burst on to the nation scene in 1965, as Member of Parliament for Mount Royal. He was appointed Justice Minister in Lester B. Pearson's cabinet in 1967, and after 3 short years in elected office in 1968, became the leader of the Liberal party of Canada, thus becoming the 15th Prime Minister of Canada. Soon after, in 1970, Mr. Trudeau was faced with the greatest crisis in modern Canadian history.
The F.L.Q. (Front Liberation de Quebec) kidnapped British diplomat James Cross and Quebec Labour Minister Pierre LaPorte who they later murdered, and created chaos in the operation of daily life in Quebec. The terrorists made several unreasonable demands. Trudeau stood his ground, and implemented the War Measures Act, which temporarily suspended civil rights, and made for the quick and effective dissolving of the F.L.Q.
Trudeau and his Liberal government won election after election, and put in place policies of multiculturalism and bilingualism. In the 1979 federal election, Joe Clark and the Tories narrowly defeated Trudeau and the Liberals; however, the Big Red machine was reinstated back in to the House of Commons with a majority government 9 months later in 1980, after the Tory government lost a vote of confidence. Immediately after the election, Trudeau set out to oppose the Separatists in the 1980 referendum. In 1982, Trudeau's crowning achievement, the repatriation of the constitution and the creation of the Charter of Rights finally became reality. Trudeau retired from public life in 1984.
The flags of the nation went to half-mast when news of Mr. Trudeau's passing broke. His death, as well as his life, invoked strong emotions amongst all Canadians. Mr. Pat McBride, the Political Science teacher at St. Stephen High School, is one such Canadian. When asked what he thought Trudeau's lasting legacy would be he replied, "his frankness, and his vision to change the status quo." Mr. McBride added, "Trudeau didn't mind stepping on people's toes to better Canadian society."
Pierre Elliot Trudeau was more than just a politician. He was a kind, comical, charismatic, intellectual leader. He pirouetted his way into our hearts and souls. He defined a generation with his uncompremisable vision of Canada. That vision was of a "just society", in which people of all religious, ethnic and linguistic descents could live comfortably in Canada, the true north strong and free. He implemented these changes, and we still feel the effects of them today.
Undoubtedly, his actions will leave an indelible mark on Canadian history and on the lives of Canadians for years to come.