Today in Canada's Political History: Pierre Trudeau passes into history

  • National Newswatch

On this date in 2000, Canada's 15th Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Pierre Trudeau, passed into history.  To mark the anniversary, I turned to my friend Tom Axworthy, who served with distinction as principal secretary and chief speechwriter to Mr. Trudeau.

By Tom Axworthy

Pierre Trudeau passed away on September 28,2000 and this anniversary naturally brings up a host of memories about this dynamic and controversial prime minister.

There have been scores of books written defending or attacking his legacy, but as we face our own severe challenges today-a health care system in crisis, extreme polarization, climate change and national security threats from Russia and China ( to name just a few) it is perhaps the approach of Pierre Trudeau to politics, not any particular part of his policy legacy, that should be remembered fondly by Canadians, whatever  particular party they support.

Pierre Trudeau entered federal politics in 1965 to do something, not to be someone. He identified Quebec separatism as the number one threat facing Canada and then spent the next twenty years persuading both his party and the Canadian public that this priority must be addressed.

He was ready, indeed keen, to debate the premises of the Quebec independence movement whatever the political cost and creative in developing a positive new vision of Canada centered on a Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

And when necessary, he compromised on aspects of his vision to bring western Premiers like Peter Lougheed and Allan Blakeney aboard to get the constitution patriated. Vision, courage, coalition-building, and compromise are qualities that made Mr.Trudeau a political giant in his time and they are qualities that we should demand from our leaders today.[caption id="attachment_924981" align="alignleft" width="279"] Funeral for Rt. Hon. Pierre Trudeau[/caption]Arthur Milnes is an accomplished public historian and award-winning journalist.  He was research assistant on The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney's best-selling Memoirs and also served as a speechwriter to then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and as a Fellow of the Queen's Centre for the Study of Democracy under the leadership of Tom Axworthy.  A resident of Kingston, Ontario, Milnes serves as the in-house historian at the 175 year-old Frontenac Club Hotel.