Pierre TrudeauPierre Trudeau, former Prime Minister of Canada, was once described as”A French Canadian proud of his identity and culture, yet a biting criticof French-Canadian society, determined to destroy its mythology andillusions”. He has also been identified as “A staunch, upholder ofprovincial autonomy holding the justice portfolio in the federalgovernment”. Such cumulative appraisal and observation made by past fellowbureaucrat provides high testimonial for the ex-Democratic Socialist. Thiscritique will establish and dispute the prime directives that Trudeau hadadvocated in his own book written during the years 1965 to 1967. Thecompilation of political essays featured in his book deal with the diversecomplexities of social, cultural and economical issues that werepredominant in Canadian politics during the mid 1960’s. However, throughoutmy readings I was also able to discover the fundamental principles thatTrudeau would advocate in order to establish a strong and productiveinfluence in Canadian politics.
Born in 1921, Trudeau entered the world in a bilingual/bicultural homelocated in the heart of Montreal, Quebec. His acceptance into theUniversity of Montreal would mark the beginning of his adventures into theCanadian political spectrum. Early in his life, Trudeau had become somewhatanti-clerical and possessed communist ideologies which were consideredradical at the time. Graduating from prestigious institutions such asHarvard and The School of Economics in England, Turdeau returned to Canadain 1949 and resumed his social science endeavors. At this time in Quebec,the province was experiencing tremendous cultural and political differenceswith the rest of the country. The Union Nationale had taken possession ofpolitical matters in Quebec and was steadily dismantling the socialistessence imposed on the province by the Federal government. The currentPrime Minister, Maurice Duplessis, found himself battling a religiousnationalist movement that corrupted the very fabric of political stabilityin Quebec. The Duplessis faction maintained their conservative approachtowards political reform but failed to sway the majority of the populationinto alleviating with the demands of the Canadian government. The citizensof Quebec revered their clerical sector as holding ‘utmost importance’towards preserving French cultural values and this did not correlate withthe Federal government’s policies and ideals. Francophones were under theimpression that their own Federal government had set out to crush andassimilate what had remained of their illustrious heritage in order toaccommodate economic and political tranquility. Trudeau himself had decidedto join the nationalist uprising with his advocation of provincialautonomy. Ultimately, he and other skilled social scientists attempted tobring down the Duplessis party in 1949, but failed miserably in theirefforts. Duplessis buckled underneath the continuous pressure of Frenchpatriotism and was rewarded for his inept idleness by winning his fourthconsecutive election in 1956. Although nothing of significance had beenaccomplished, Quebec has solidified its temporary presence in confederationat such a time. This prompted Trudeau to involve himself in provincialdiplomacy as he would engage in several media projects that would voice hisdispleasure and disapproval with the ongoing cultural predicament in Canada(this included a syndicated newspaper firm, live radio programs). “If, inthe last analysis, we continually identify Catholicism with conservatismand patriotism with immobility, we will lose by default that which is inplay between all cultures…”. By literally encouraging a liberal, left-wing revolution in his province, Trudeau believed that Democracy must comebefore Ideology. Gradually, his disposition would attract many politiciansand advocates of Socialism, and thus it allowed him to radiate his ideologyonto the populace of Quebec. Trudeau makes it clear in his book that duringthe early years of the Duplessis government, he was a staunch admirer ofprovincial autonomy, but with the archaic sequence of events following theconflicts that arouse between Federal and Provincial matters in Quebec, hehad taken a stance on Federalism that involved security, economicprosperity and centralized authority. It wasn’t until 1963 when the newlyappointed Premier of Quebec, Rene Levesque, warned that there must be a newCanada within five years or Quebec will quit confederation. It was notuntil 1965 that a man named Pierre Trudeau entered politics.
It is at this point in his anthology that I was able to surmise theradical and unorthodox political convictions that the soon-to-be PrimeMinister would incorporate into Canada. His thesis is focused aroundpertinent issues which demanded attention at the time. After he elaborateson the importance of Federalism and how it is associated with Quebec, thereader begins to interpret the resolutions he offers and then finds himselfcomprehending the dilemma that French Canadians face in Canada. In the wakeof a constitutional referendum, such knowledge can be viewed as ironicallysignificant. A defender of civil rights and freedoms, Trudeau, even as ateenager, was adamantly opposed to supporting any political theory based onethnic tendencies; he makes this clear on an essay in the book entitled:”Quebec and the Constitutional Problem”. He was convinced that not only thedivided jurisdiction of a federal state helped protect the liberty of itscitizens but also that in fact the economic, social and cultural goods ofQuebec can best be achieved with a Canadian federal state. It seemed thatan archetypal Trudeau Federal infrastructure would be one where each levelof government would function on its own jurisdiction. In doing so, Trudeauwould voice his admiration for the Bill of Rights and how he wouldconcentrate on developing a Federal government for the individual. It wasnot until 1962 that Trudeau actually began defending Federalism for what itrepresented to the average labourer, but the fact that Quebec seemed toconvert provincial autonomy into an absolute forced him to reconsider hispolitical stance. Joining the struggling Liberal party in 1965, his onlycoinciding proposition with that of his party was the advocation of an openFederal system. Nonetheless, it marked the beginning of a political careerthat would take him to the heights of power in his dominion.
“My political action, or my theory – insomuch as I can be said to haveone – can be expressed very simply: create counter-weights”. The measure ofa man can be traced to his ideological convictions, and in doing so, I haveonly started to realize the prominent role that Trudeau has played inCanadian politics. He was heralded as a radical, somewhat of a usurper anddefinitely a socialist mogul, but what was clear about Trudeau was hisrespect and admiration for liberties of the common man and how they werepreserved from the clutches of Federal policies. This respect would not bereplaced at any cost during his tenure and as he forecasted the ensuingconstitutional dilemma with a very impartial, non-partisan outlook, hewould primarily concentrate on two factors (economic and linguistic) whichoffered practical conclusions without chaotic implications. Trudeauenvisioned himself in power, speculating two choices he would offer toQuebec; full sovereignty or maximized integration into the Americancontinent. But what Trudeau avoided treading upon was the infringement ofstate policies on the individual’s rights and freedoms. Many members of theFederal government believed that Trudeau did not speak on behalf of FrenchCanadians but that he substituted their cultural plight with his owntheories. This generated the following response: “If the party does notagree with my opponents, it can repudiate me; if my constituents do not,they can elect someone else”. Trudeau maintains that he dedicated hisanthology in order for others to understand the problems that FrenchCanadians faced in terms of cultural progress, and I am compelled toconclude that his involvement with the Federal regime may have saved thecountry for twenty years…unfortunately, he was unable to complete theaffirmation of his ideology into the French Canadian scope and thus Canadatoday is contemplating the outcome of another constitutional referendum.
His failure to absolve the constitution of any future repercussions withthe masses should not be viewed as a political error, but as an ideologicaltruth which he exhibited since 1965 (the addition of the “notwithstanding”clause).
Trudeau’s book covers an immense amount of historical and idealisticcontent. Published in 1965, it is fascinating to read and discover howintently and closely he would follow his ideologies as he would eventuallyascend to the position of Prime Minister. His reliability would bequestionable at the time (based on limited experience as a politician) butthe fact that he had submerged himself into a field which requiredinnovative and pragmatic thought led me to believe that his Federaliststance would eventually be justified in Canadian history. With asuperlative writing style, his use of vocabulary and terminology aided thereader in understanding his convictions. Not even this reader expected sucha barrage of political jargon.
Recent events in Canada have somewhat curtailed the ambience dealingwith this critique in respects to the opinions exhibited on behalf of theauthor and reviewer. Trudeau takes obvious pride in his ideologicalperspective of multicultural Canada, and in doing so one might expect apartisan, biased array of resolutions. This, however, is not the case. Thisbook leaves room for educational prowess without any noticeable weaknesses.
Federalism and the French Canadians is an insightful, ideological anthologythat could be found especially useful to other politics students who wishto examine the importance of cultural and social values in a countrymissing a stable political doctrine (and perhaps a leader, no less).