Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pop History Moment: The October Crisis Deepens

In general Canadian Prime Ministers have not been possessed of overmuch in the swagger department. They're generally a 'hot mug of cocoa, in bed by ten' kind of group, which suits the country just fine. What a shock it was, then, to find that Pierre Trudeau more than made up for the alternating parade of milquetoasts and blowhards who have typically inhabited 24 Sussex Drive.

Trudeau's invocation of the War Measures Act to deal with the deepening October Crisis of 1970 isn't something I of all people should be proud of; yet alone among politicians, I would trust Trudeau to know the limits of his power and not abuse them, which anyway is how it all played out.

Watching him now, 40 years later, is an exercise in conflicting emotions: he's maddeningly smug, defiant, and courageous in the execution of a potentially unpopular act - which anyway was requested of him by the mayor of Montreal and the Premier of Quebec. At least he wasn't acting unilaterally - like some Presidents I could name.

It shows, too, the power of an idea called Canada, that it could attract such a fierce intellectual, who in his college days had been a pretty radical leftie separatist, to come to its aid in a time of crisis, deftly display just enough power to subdue a dangerous situation (possibly even forestalling a civil war) and then back off once it was under control, rather than becoming drunk on the power.

I'd like to see Brian Mulroney do that...
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