Monday, October 18, 2010

In Memoriam: Pierre Elliot Trudeau

Only one Canadian Prime Minister has ever jazzed his potential electorate to such a degree that someone had to append the word 'mania' to his surname to describe the phenomenon, and it sure as Hell wasn't Arthur Meighen...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThe year was 1967, and as Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson was preparing to leave office, so was Canada preparing to leave the 1950s. Pearson was popular in the way that quiet people often attract quiet admirers - to him a golf clap would have been a thunderous ovation; his Justice Minister was also quiet, but he was quiet in an entirely different way...

Pierre Trudeau's tenure as Justice Minister saw an overhaul the likes of which the country had never seen - laws concerning divorce, homosexuality, and abortion more in line with the times were implemented. It was almost as though, following a century as an Imperial and Commonwealth Dominion, Canada was finally ready to be its own country. Trudeau's omnibus bill, Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69, swept away the old so as to usher in the new as easily as would Trudeau's other masterpiece, Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a decade later.

Similarly, Trudeaumania shook Canadian society down to its very core, beginning in that centennial year... For many Baby Boomers the election of 1968 was their first chance to vote, and they sure as tooting weren't going to waste it by voting for some square who favoured the status quo. Trudeau was not only the first 20th Century Prime Minister born in the 20th Century (on this day in 1919) he was also the first Prime Minister elected in Canada's second century - single, athletic, and while not traditionally handsome, he was certainly attractive in other ways, as his never-ending stream of pretty dates could attest.

It didn't take long for his opponents to surface; whether the more staid rural Liberals in his own party or Quebeckers expecting one of their own to just hand them their sovereignty, Trudeau fought them all and won. To this day he's still dividing Canadians, who are still trying to come to terms with his legacy, especially as one of his more anodyne successors prepares to hand control of the Natural Governing Party - potentially even to one of Trudeau's sons, Justin, who could potentially become Canada's first PMILF*...

*Duh! What do you think it means?

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