Tuesday 3 November 2015
Prime Minister Trudeau Redux
Justin Trudeau is being sworn in this week as Canada's 23rd prime minister. I'm old enough, of course, to remember when his father was prime minister. Pierre Elliot Trudeau wasn't always a good PM -- he made plenty of mistakes -- but no one can deny that he was a visionary patriot who profoundly shaped the future of modern Canada.
Although I never voted for Pierre Trudeau, I admired him very much and still do. Here are three important ways that Pierre Trudeau made Canada a better country --
First of all, as Minister of Justice in the Pearson government in 1968, he decriminalized homosexual behaviour. This paved the way, of course, for all our later victories. Every Canadian can still quote his famous statement on the issue, too.
Secondly, Trudeau's policies of official French/English bilingualism and general multiculturalism turned Canada into a pluralistic society where the emphasis is on tolerance and equality, not ethnic or linguistic supremacy. Much of English Canada fought him tooth and nail on these reforms back in the day but Trudeau and his vision prevailed. I firmly believe these policies served to keep Canada together during the fractious days of resurgent Quebec nationalism and separatism in the 1970s and 80s. Without Trudeau, Canada would be two separate countries by now.
Finally, Trudeau's greatest act of nation building was successfully patriating the Canadian constitution from British control in 1982. He entrenched within our constitution a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which has transformed equality and other rights in Canada. The Charter has produced many important court victories for those who are minorities, marginalized or disenfranchised.
True confession time now -- just as I never voted for Pierre Elliot, I didn't vote for Justin Trudeau either! But I look forward to his time as prime minister. If he's even a fraction of the man his father was, he can do nothing but good for Canada.
So Justin, take a deep breath and . . . .