Pierre Elliott Trudeau

The Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 15th Prime Minister of Canada.

In office:
April 20, 1968 to  June 4, 1979
March 3, 1980  to  June 30, 1984

Born: October 18, 1919 at Montreal, Quebec
Died: September 28, 2000, at age 80, in Montreal, Quebec. of cancer.
Resting place: Saint-Rémi Cemetery, Saint-Rémi, Quebec

Political party:
Liberal Party of Canada

 Alma mater:
Université de Montréal
Harvard University
Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris
London School of Economics

Lawyer, Jurist, Academic, Professor, Author, Journalist, Politician

Roman Catholic

Of note:
Trudeau’s mother, Grace Elliott, was of French and Scottish descent.

Trudeau attended the prestigious Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf, a private French Jesuit school.

During the 1950s, he wanted to teach at the Université de Montréal, but was blacklisted three times from doing so by Maurice Duplessis, then Premier of Quebec.  During the 1950s, he was blacklisted by the United States and prevented from entering that country because of a visit to a conference in Moscow.  Trudeau later appealed the ban and it was rescinded.

As Minister of Justice, Pierre Trudeau was responsible for introducing the landmark Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69, a bill whose provisions included, among other things, the decriminalization of homosexual acts, the legalization of contraception, abortion and lotteries, new gun ownership restrictions as well as the authorization of breathalyzer tests on suspected drunk drivers and liberalized divorce laws . Trudeau famously defended the decriminalization of homosexual acts segment of the bill by telling reporters that

“there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation … what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code”.

Click the following link for an  excerpt from Pierre Trudeau’s famous interview regarding the omnibus bill and homosexuality.

Trudeau’s election campaign benefited from an unprecedented wave of personal popularity called “Trudeaumania” (term coined by journalist Lubor J. Zink. More on Wikiedia) which saw Trudeau mobbed by throngs of youths. An iconic moment that influenced the election occurred on its eve, during the annual Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day parade in Montreal, when rioting Quebec separatists threw rocks and bottles at the grandstand where Trudeau was seated. Rejecting the pleas of his aides that he take cover, Trudeau stayed in his seat, facing the rioters, without any sign of fear. The image of the young politician showing such courage impressed the Canadian people, and he handily won the election the next day.

During the October Crisis of 1970, the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) kidnapped British Trade Consul James Cross on the sixth of October. Five days later, Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte was also kidnapped (and was later murdered, on October 17). Trudeau responded by invoking the War Measures Act, which gave the government sweeping powers of arrest and detention without trial. Trudeau presented a determined public stance during the crisis, answering the question of how far he would go to stop the terrorists with

“Just watch me.”

Trudeau would be remembered for the passage of his implementation of official bilingualism. This legislation requires all Federal services to be offered in French and English. The measures were very controversial at the time in English Canada. The Official Languages Act was passed by parliament in 1969.

Trudeau was the first world leader to meet John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono on their ‘tour for world peace‘. Lennon said, after talking with Trudeau for 50 minutes, that Trudeau was “a beautiful person” and that “if all politicians were like Pierre Trudeau, there would be world peace.

As Minister of Justice Trudeau proposed that life imprisonment be the penalty for murder (unless the victim is a police officer on duty or a prison guard, then the death penalty would be allowed). On July 14, 1976, Bill C-84 was passed by the House of Commons by a vote of 130 to 124 abolishing the death penalty completely and instituting a life sentence without parole for 25 years for first degree murder. Two days later Bill C-84 was approved by the Senate and received royal assent.

The referendum on Quebec sovereignty, called by the Parti Québécois government of René Lévesque, which was held on May 20, 1980. In the debates between Trudeau and Lévesque, Canadians were treated to a contest between two highly intelligent, articulate and bilingual politicians who, despite being bitterly opposed, were each committed to the democratic process. The “No” side (that is, No to sovereignty) ended up receiving nearly 60% of the vote.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau died on September 28, 2000, and was buried in the Trudeau family crypt, St-Rémi-de-Napierville Cemetery, Saint-Rémi, Quebec. Several world politicians, including Fidel Castro, attended the funeral.

 On a personal note:

“Reason before passion”

was his personal motto.

Described as a “swinging young bachelor” when he became prime minister in 1968, Trudeau dated Hollywood star Barbra Streisand in 1969 and 1970; Trudeau and Streisand had a serious romantic relationship although there was no express marriage proposal.

On March 4, 1971, while Prime Minister, he quietly married Margaret Sinclair. After three children were born they separated in 1977 and divorced in 1980. Their three children are Justin (1971-), Alexandre (Sacha, 1973-), and Michel (1975–1998).

When his divorce was finalized in 1984, Trudeau became the first Canadian Prime Minister to become a single parent as the result of divorce. In 1984, Trudeau was romantically involved with Margot Kidder (a Canadian actress famous for her role as Lois Lane in Superman: The Movie and its sequel), in the last months of his prime-ministership and after leaving office. In 1991, Trudeau became a father again, with Deborah Coyne to his first and only daughter, named Sarah.

In the last years of his life, he was afflicted with Parkinson’s disease and prostate cancer, and became less active, although he continued to work at his law office until a few months before his death at the age of 80. He was devastated by the death of his youngest son, Michel Trudeau, who was killed in an avalanche in November 1998.


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