Pierre Elliot Trudeau



Pierre Elliot Trudeau


Published in 1968, Federalism and the French Canadians is an
ideological anthology featuring a series of essays written by Pierre
Elliot Trudeau during his time spent with the Federal Liberal party of
Canada. The emphasis of the book deals with the problems and conflicts
facing the country during the Duplessis regime in Quebec. While
Trudeau stresses his adamant convictions on Anglophone/Francophone
relations and struggles for equality in a confederated land, he also
elaborates on his own ideological views pertaining to Federalism and
Nationalism. The reader is introduced to several essays that discuss
Provincial legislature and conflict (Quebec and the Constitutional
Problem, A Constitutional Declaration of Rights) while other
compositions deal with impending and contemporary Federal predicaments
(Federal Grants to Universities, The Practice and Theory of
Federalism, Separatist Counter-Revolutionaries). Throughout all these
documented personal accounts and critiques, the reader learns that
Trudeau is a sharp critic of contemporary Quebec nationalism and that
his prime political conviction (or thesis) is sporadically reflected
in each essay: Federalism is the only possible system of government
that breeds and sustains equality in a multicultural country such as
Canada.

Trudeau is fervent and stalwart in his opinions towards
Federalism and its ramifications on Canadian citizenry. Born and
raised in Quebec, he attended several prestigious institutions that
educated him about the political spectrum of the country. After his
time spent at the London School of Economics, Trudeau returned to
Quebec at a time when the province was experiencing vast differences
with its Federal overseer. The Union Nationale, a religious
nationalist movement rooted deep in the heart of Quebec culture, had
forced the Federal government to reconcile and mediate with them in
order to avoid civil disorder or unrest. The Premier of Quebec at the
time, Maurice Duplessis, found it almost impossible to appease the
needs of each diverse interest group and faction rising within the
province and ultimately buckled underneath the increasing pressure.
Many Francophones believed that they were being discriminated and
treated unfairly due to the British North American Act which failed to
recognize the unique nature of the province in its list of provisions.
Trudeau, with the aid of several colleagues, fought the imminent wave
of social chaos in Quebec with anti-clerical and communist visions he
obtained while in his adolescent years. However, as the nationalist
movement gained momentum against the Provincial government, Trudeau
came to the startling realization that Provincial autonomy would not
solidify Quebec\'s future in the country (he believed that separatism
would soon follow) and unless Duplessis could successfully negotiate
(on the issue of a constitution) with the rest of Canada, the prospect
of self-sovereignty for Quebec would transpire.

His first essay (Quebec and the Constitutional Problem) explores
the trials and tribulations which occurred between the Provincial and
Federal governments during the ensuing constitutional problems in
Canada. Trudeau candidly lambastes and ridicules the Federal
Government\'s inability to recognize the economic and linguistic
differences in Quebec. He defends the province by stating that
"The language provisions of the British North American Act are very
limited" and therefore believes that they continue to divide the
country and aid the nationalist movement in Quebec. Using an informal,
first person writing approach, Trudeau makes it clear that his words
are for reactionaries, not revolutionaries who are looking to destroy
the political fabric of the country. However, Trudeau considers
possible alternatives and implications in the second essay (A
Constitutional Declaration of Rights) and offers possible resolutions
to the everlasting cultural dilemma plaguing both parties involved.
One of his arguments is that the Federal government must take the
initiative and begin the constitutional sequence to modify and adapt
to the growing needs of all the provinces, not only Quebec. "One tends
to forget that constitutions must also be made by men and not by force
of brutal circumstance or blind disorder", was his response to the
perpetual ignorance of the Federalist leaders who stalled and dodged
on the issue of equality and compromise throughout the country. At
this point in the essay, Trudeau relied on his central thesis for the
book and used it to prove his application of constitutional reform
using the Federal government as the catalyst. Trudeau had already
formulated his visions of the perfect constitution and how it would
include "A Bill of Rights that would guarantee the fundamental
freedoms of the citizen from intolerance, whether federal or
provincial". Each and every one of his proposals demonstrated
innovative thought and pragmatic resolve for a striving politician who
believed in Democracy before Ideology. The emphasis he places on
equality and individualism is a testimonial to his character and
integrity as a politician. The next essay (The Practice and Theory of
Federalism) is the opening composition for Trudeau\'s firm stance