Trudeau is dead
September 28, 2000 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Trudeau is dead Perhaps the most important, and certainly the most interesting living Canadian dies in Montreal at 80.
posted by bruyneel (18 comments total)
Trudeau had a profound impact on my life, from the French immersion program I found myself in from grades six and seven, to my mother meeting my step-father at a "French camp" for civil servants in the Gatineaus north of Ottawa in the early seventies. Who can forget his nutty pirouette behind the Queen? Unlike some politicians, he retired gracefully from the field and lead a very private life afterwards. He has left an indelible mark on Canada and will be greatly missed.
posted by heather at 5:11 PM on September 28, 2000

Trudeau was certainly one funky dude, that's for sure. Out west (Alberta) we pretty much hated the guy, but it wasn't anything personal -- we pretty much hated every eastern politician. Of course, anyone involved with the NEP was especially disliked, and don't even get me started on Mulroney.

Trudeau was one of those guys you miss once they're gone -- you only realize how important/useful they were once they're not around any more. It's a pity.
posted by aramaic at 5:23 PM on September 28, 2000

After seeing a little note about this somewhere, I went to several Canadian news sites, and there was unbelievably little about Trudeau's death. Sure, it was the top story - where the sites had bothered to update at all today - but there was basically the one story and nothing else. This is especially odd to me given that we've known he was at death's door for at least several days. If a former president died in the US, it would probably take over every slot on every news site front page for at least 48 hours (well, maybe not if it was Ford, heh heh). Are PMs just not as important as Presidents?
posted by aaron at 5:53 PM on September 28, 2000

Are PMs just not as important as Presidents?

Prime Ministers are only politicians. A President is a celebrity. :)
posted by Lirp at 6:06 PM on September 28, 2000

Trudeau was definitely a celebrity. (And not every president is one: Kennedy but not Johnson, Nixon but not Ford, not Carter, Reagan but not Bush, Clinton but not whoever wins this one ...)
posted by sylloge at 7:41 PM on September 28, 2000

Trudeau was one of those guys you miss once they're gone -- you only realize how important/useful they were once they're not around any more. It's a pity.

damn straight aramaic. I too am an albertan and like so many who were too young to really grasp politics, i was raised with a disdain for eastern politicians.
what trudeau was, simply, was a leader of men. an icon. There are so few of them in the world. Maybe it was the 60's that did it. i don't know. that decade produced John F. Kennedy and Pierre Elliot Trudeau. two men who shared passion. guts. determination. dreams. they elevated their cultures, and their nations in the eyes of the world. what a pity there are so few real leaders, real men, left in the world today.
Are PMs just not as important as Presidents?
aaron, they are. lirp, trudeau was a celebrity. trudeaumania swept canada in the late sixties. he was easily the world's most eligible batchelor when he was elected prime minister.
and i'd like to believe the canadian press is holding off on the 'hysteria' because canadians have an inherant quiet dignity.

posted by daddyray at 7:58 PM on September 28, 2000

aaron wrote: "... there was basically the one story and nothing else."

There was a brief scare about his health September 7 that resulted in reporters camping outside his house for a few days. This was followed by a flurry of respectful stories and columns even in newspapers that had little love for him during his terms in office. But after accepting reassurances from his family that he was basically well, the media backed off and there hasn't been wall to wall coverage about him -- until now.

The CBC has blocked off 2 hours during Olympics prime time (sorry, border dwelling Americans: you can catch up later) and is now broadcasting a special on his life, and several Canadian web sites that do update frequently have a lot of material hiding behind what seems to be a single top story. See:

Globe & Mail
National Post
Toronto Star

Trudeau was the earliest PM I can remember: I was 7 when he was elected and 23 when he went for that walk in the snow. My parents pointed him out to me as the nominee to support in the Liberal Convention that saw him first lead the party, and they voted for him time and again. Trudeau seemed to be more like a cranky, charming, endearing and exasperating distant relative than just another politician, and I think that a lot of other Canadians feel the same.

posted by maudlin at 8:18 PM on September 28, 2000

You had me nervous there for a while - I thought the Doonesbury guy had perished! Thank goodness it's only some Canadian guy.

I couldn't help that crack - please forgive me. As a dumb American, I've little knowledge of Trudeau. Perhaps it's telling that my first thoughts were of the cartoonist . . .
posted by aladfar at 8:23 PM on September 28, 2000

Well your on the right bloodline... From Salon's profile of Garry Trudeau:

"Like George Bush Sr., who also attended Yale and whom Trudeau has savaged with special relish, the cartoonist is well-pedigreed, with ancestors who landed in the colonies in the 17th century. His father is a doctor, as was his grandfather and great-grandfather. Other relatives include former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau."
posted by tomalak at 9:48 PM on September 28, 2000

A short thread about the Trudeau family tree on a genealogy site.
posted by tomalak at 9:54 PM on September 28, 2000

Or maybe he isn't related? From's FAQ:

Q: Is it true that GBT is the former prime minister of Canada, or is related to him, or is at least Canadian?

A: No. But it is a question that has appeared regularly in newspaper Q&A columns for years, so we thought we'd include it here.
posted by tomalak at 9:56 PM on September 28, 2000

You'll have to pardon my annoyance but comparing Trudeau the cartoonist with Trudeau the prime minister is like comparing John F. Kennedy the president with Kennedy the VJ.

Trudeau was the re-patriator of the Canadian constitution which brought along with it the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a constitution that to this day does not include the province of Quebec (perhaps Trudeau's greatest failing), and the first cult of personality to emerge in Canadian politics and a genuine international star that Canada had not seen before (or since). On the Nixon tapes Dick was said to have called Trudeau an "asshole" and it is said that Fidel Castro counted Trudeau among his friends.

All you need to know about the man, and his stoic, frustrating determination can be gleamed by watching this video.

To set the scene, in late 1970 a political terrorist group known as the FLQ (Front de liberation du Quebec) kidnapped two major politicos, first Pierre Laporte, who they later killed, and then trade commissioner James Cross who was released. To the weak kneed liberals (even the ones in his own party) Trudeau exclaimed his famous retort to the question, "How far will you go?", "Just watch me" Trudeau answered.

It was this kind of quasi-arrogance that both delighted and repulsed the country. When I was young, in Vancouver, it was said that Trudeau either walked on water, or deserved to swim with the fishes, depending on who you asked.

posted by bruyneel at 10:10 PM on September 28, 2000

Trudeau came across as a pivotal figure at a time when the former Dominions sought to assert their own political identity. Like Gough Whitlam in Australia, the British press disparaged him because he had charisma, combined with a sense of national identity that wasn't indebted to the mother country. Which is why his reputation has steadily increased since his leaving office, and will likely continue to do so.

PMs may not be Heads of State, but they can still define the character of the nation.
posted by holgate at 11:11 PM on September 28, 2000

the most interesting living Canadian dies in Montreal at 80.

Does that now make him the most interesting dead Canadian?
posted by lagado at 3:39 AM on September 29, 2000

Does that now make him the most interesting dead Canadian?

I think he was the most interesting Canadian, period.
I am surprised [given that I only lived in Canada for 9 years and haven't lived there for another 8] how saddened I am by his passing.
posted by theparanoidandroid at 5:44 AM on September 29, 2000

Trudeau was one of my heroes. Political or otherwise. He was a man of complete integrity, and was always honest and forthright with his opinions. A few months ago, I began reading his "Memoirs," and I thought how ridiculous it was that I was able to pick it up in a remainder bin for a couple of bucks. Surely, the man's contribution to Canada is worth infinitely more than that. I will miss him...
posted by jmcnally at 9:50 AM on September 29, 2000

I thought that Joni Mitchell was the most interesting Canadian alive. (Or do you have to live in Canada to be considered a true Canadian?)
posted by waxpancake at 9:57 AM on September 29, 2000

Trudeau had something that very few politicians in Canada seem to have - a true vision of the country. What it is, what it could be, what it should be. By comparison the current crop look like petty little men and women, without intellect, vision, hope, or balls.

And that's the really sad part of it. As is the case in the US these days, the best women and men of their generation now run a mile from politics - although if anything it's an even more pronounced tendency here.

Canadians who are now 25-35 are truly Trudeau's children, especially if you're from Ontario. A great deal of what we take for granted about Canada springs directly from his leadership - whether it's the French Immersion education many received, playing the old "Oh Canada" board game with the (???) parrot mascot in primary school, the constitution, the together but apart relationship with the US. A lot of people have had influence on things such as those - but none like Trudeau.

I was lucky to meet the man a couple times, in 87 when I sold he and one of his sons some skis and boots, and again in 97 when he was sipping a coffee next to me at the cafe where I ate lunch. He came across as a very normal person - but there was something else there too. Something MORE.
posted by mikel at 10:37 AM on September 29, 2000

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