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Happy Birthday, Pierre Elliott Trudeau

Posted by Bob Rae on October 18, 2012 | No Comments

Today is the birthday of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Canada’s fifteenth prime minister.

Driven throughout his career to work towards the creation of a more just society, Trudeau achieved many important milestones in the pursuit of that goal.

In 1968 as Lester Pearson’s Minister of Justice, Trudeau modernized Canada’s laws including decriminalizing homosexuality, legalizing contraception, liberalizing divorce laws and decriminalizing abortion.

After becoming prime minister, Trudeau quickly took important steps towards improving linguistic and gender equality, and protecting the rights of minorities, notably through the passage of the Official Languages Act in 1969, the creation of the Status of Woman office and the introduction of Canada’s multiculturalism policy in 1971.

Trudeau walked the talk on equality appointing the first female Speakers of both the Senate and the House of Commons, the first female justice of the Supreme Court, the first female Governor General and influential female cabinet ministers, like Monique Bégin and Judy Erola

In foreign affairs, Trudeau pursued a resolutely independent policy for Canada achieving influence in world affairs far beyond our relative size.

Trudeau’s crowning achievement was undoubtedly the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. The Charter continues to play a major role in framing Canada’s laws and safeguarding our liberties, today – 30 years after it became part of our Constitution.

Bob Rae

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  1. Profile photo of Peter Haley Peter Haley said on

    Always was, and remains, one of my few heroes. His legacy remains Canada’s true coming of age and salvation. Interesting that his reverence is divided among Canadians and unanimous outside Canada…something like another hero of mine, President Obama.

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  2. Profile photo of Ken Cunningham Ken Cunningham said on

    Astonishing as it now seems didn’t Mr Trudeau also have the first Jewish cabinet member of a federal Canadian govt?

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    • Profile photo of Peter Haley Peter Haley said on

      I doubt if Herb Gray was the first Jewish Cabinet Minister, but what does that have to do with anything?

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      • Profile photo of Martin Showell Martin Showell said on

        I have found three references to The Right Honourable Herb Gray as being the first Jewish “federal” Cabinet Minister in Canada – why would you question that Peter?

        As far as “what it has to do with anything” – perhaps Ken was simply adding another “first” by PET (in keeping with the theme of the blog post). Or perhaps continuing the theme of “protecting the rights of minorities” by promoting a Jew to to such an illustrious position.

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        • Profile photo of Peter Haley Peter Haley said on

          The context of my comment about Herb Gray was that it is irrelevant what religion any Member of Parliament, or Cabinet Minister, is, or should be. Also, at the time, Canada was primarily a Judeo-Christian society, so it shouldn’t and didn’t come as a shock to anyone. I doubt if Pierre Trudeau’s intent was to “protect the rights of minorities”: he merely chose a good man. The only surprise to me is that he was the first.

          At least I shamed you into/alerted you to contributing to this important celebration of Trudeau’s great contribution to Canada, and his being Canada’s foremost Prime Minister. I hope others have important things to add as you did as well.

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          • Profile photo of Martin Showell Martin Showell said on

            No Peter it is not irrelevant to me and obviously not to Ken.

            And no that was not the “full” context of your comment, partly maybe, but part was also that you called into question the veracity, for no apparent reason or with any justification, something someone else posted here. You said: “I doubt if Herb Gray was the first Jewish Cabinet Minister…” and I asked “Why would you question that?” But you are choosing not to answer (go figure). So, let’s move on …

            You obviously have absolutely no idea what it means to be Jewish in a predominantly Christian controlled country and no understanding of the historical significance of a Roman Catholic leader of any country choosing a Jewish cabinet minister, both for the country and the leader himself. Your use of the term “Judeo-Christian society” in this context is completely incorrect. Judeo-Christian does not refer to any make-up of a society in terms of demographics. The Jewish population in Canada in the early 70’s was about 280,000 – less than 1.5% of the population – a small minority.

            Of course PET picked the best man for the job, but previous PM’s did not always. Just as they did not choose women when they were the best choice, but PET did – that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

            Are you really that naïve or limited in imagination that you honestly can’t see the significance of this event?

            As to PET’s actual motivations … I don’t think either of us can really speak directly to that – I merely suggested that this may have been part of why Ken mentioned it.

            And finally as to your ridiculous assertion that your comment on this blog post “shamed me” or had anything to do with my deciding to comment, I strongly suggest that you … get over yourself . You obviously did not notice that I have not made any posts anywhere for the last 5 days. I was out of town (Texas) attending my son’s wedding. One of the first things I did upon my return this morning was to check in on Liberal.ca and the first comment I made was on this blog – you had nothing to do with it.

            As to PET being Canada’s “foremost Prime Minister” … debatable. But irrelevant on this particular blog. He was a great man.

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            • Profile photo of Peter Haley Peter Haley said on

              Tell me,is there anything I can say that you wouldn’t disagree with? Not only are you speaking for Ken, you’re also refuting the context that I made to clarify my statement. Get over myself? How mature.

              Years ago I was the head coach of a baseball team where Herb Gray’s son was an assistant of mine. Do you think I selected him because he was Jewish? How ridiculous. And yes it was, and still is, primarily a Judeo-Christian value-based society which, because of its very tenets, has now come to embrace multi-culturalism and religions. Has there been discrimination in Canada, of course. However, our religious “history” was more Catholic-Protestant. There are still to this day communities which vote along those lines, living side by side in places like Nova Scotia. So please don’t try to lecture me, I’m too well educated, informed and have lived too long to not know the history and nature of our country.

              Like I said, it is shocking to me that Mr. Gray was the first Jewish federal Cabinet Minister, but maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t a prejudice (are you calling someone like Lester Pearson a bigot?), but more the fact, as you say, that the Jewish population is a small minority religion in Canada.

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              • Profile photo of Peter Haley Peter Haley said on

                sorry, grandson.

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              • Profile photo of Ken Cunningham Ken Cunningham said on

                “Like I said, it is shocking to me that Mr. Gray was the first Jewish federal Cabinet Minister”
                Just a quick reply. I had no wish to turn this post into a debate over minorities or religion.
                That is exactly how i intended my comment to be read. And Martin is also right, it is not inappropriate within the context of this post – an achievement, a milestone that happened under Trudeau’s watch. A bonus, an accidental one if you like but nevertheless hardly irrelevant. Almost certainly Trudeau chose Gray on merit alone but the fact remains it was a first. Given the record of anti semitic history that pervaded even in this country after the war, and long afterward, it is still a significant milestone and a surprising one, [and not likely just down to demographics] considering the quality of politicians that had gone before Trudeau.
                The main point is surely that Pierre Elliot Trudeau turned our world upside down, and almost invariably for the better.

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  3. Profile photo of Charles De Felice Charles De Felice said on

    Mr. Trudeau (PET) was and still is a hero to me. He creaated an awareness in all Canadians of our own identity and indeed how lucky we were to be Canadians. in fact I think Mr. Trudeau put Canada on the World map. His courage, keen sense of justice and love of a United Canada is something more politicians should emulate. Mr. Trudeau wherever you are THANK YOU.

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    • Profile photo of Peter Haley Peter Haley said on

      Five, now six, comments on PET’s tribute page and 3 of them are mine. For shame!

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  4. Profile photo of Martin Showell Martin Showell said on

    Happy Birthday Pierre! Boy could Canada and the LPC ever use your wisdom these days.

    Of all the many quotes from PET, I found this one particularly interesting and relevant as the Liberal Party of Canada struggles to define ourselves and explain who we are:

    “Liberalism is the philosophy for our time, because it does not try to conserve every tradition of the past, because it does not apply to new problems the old doctrinaire solutions, because it is prepared to experiment and innovate and because it knows that the past is less important than the future.” ~~Pierre Trudeau at the 1968 Liberal leadership convention~~

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    • Profile photo of André Brisebois André Brisebois said on

      Great quote Martin! Thanks for posting.

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  5. Profile photo of Charles De Felice Charles De Felice said on

    I would like to think that Mr. Trudeau simply appointed the best person for that time period and prevailing circumstances. I would hope that this space devoted to pay tribute to PET will remain so and not a forum for personal debate. Thank you.

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    • Profile photo of Martin Showell Martin Showell said on

      Yes Charles, he did appoint the best person for the job. Unfortunately, his predecessors did not always do that.

      Pierre Trudeau had the courage of his convictions or as Bob Rae put it “Trudeau walked the talk on equality”.

      He had the courage to appoint the people that deserved it instead of kowtowing to the power brokers of the day.

      And to acknowledge and highlight that bravery and spirit is, I think, the greatest tribute I can pay him.

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    • Profile photo of Peter Haley Peter Haley said on

      Agreed

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  6. Profile photo of Martin Showell Martin Showell said on

    Pierre Elliot Trudeau was a great man … and here is part of the reason why …

    I encourage everyone visiting the comments on this blog post to carefully read the entire thread. I am making this comment to point out how people with limited knowledge and limited insight can write things that are incredibly offensive and incredibly uninformed. I am sure (I hope) they do not understand how their comments affect others, how they dismiss, offhandedly, without appropriate research, without thought, what is so very important to so many others.

    And how in doing so, they offend the very man they claim to be paying tribute to.

    I am talking about Pierre Elliot Trudeau. And I am talking about Herb Gray.

    If you read the original post by Bob Rae you will see how he talks about some “firsts” from Pierre Trudeau, mostly in the form of appointing women to prestigious positions in our government. Ken Cunningham then adds quite appropriately in my opinion, that Pierre Trudeau also appointed the first Jewish Cabinet Minister … ever … in Canada, Herb Gray, in 1969. Herb went on to become the longest serving MP in Canada’s history.

    We then see a comment from Mr. Peter Haley who, for some unknown reason, and without taking the time to research, questions the veracity of Ken’s statement. Why? I asked him … no response. Mr. Haley also suggested that Ken’s additional tribute to Pierre Trudeau was … irrelevant.

    Why? Why is it relevant to point out how this great and wise leader appointed the first women ever in Canada to the prestigious posts mentioned by Bob Rae, but somehow it is irrelevant to point out that he also appointed the first Jewish Cabinet member? Would it have been more relevant if Herb had been a woman?

    We then have input from some others also saying that this part of the discussion is somehow … inappropriate or irrelevant.

    Are these contributors so naïve, so uninformed, that they do not realize the significance, the boldness, the humanity of what Mr. Trudeau did? How can they pay tribute to Pierre Trudeau without understanding his motivations? Did Pierre Trudeau “need” to do what he did? Did Canada, at the time, need a “Minister without portfolio” ? To intimate the “he was the best man for the job” is nonsense. Are they so blind, to the world and Canada 40 years ago, and still today, that they do not understand the significance of this decision and the courage shown by Pierre Trudeau?

    Are these people aware that Pierre Trudeau also appointed the first Jewish member of the Supreme court … Mr. Bora Laskin? … from Mr. Laskin’s Wikipedia site: “Despite his superior academic record, Laskin, who was Jewish, was unable to find work at any law firm of note, because of the anti-Semitism that pervaded the English-Canadian legal profession at the time”.

    Obviously, Mr. Haley sees this as a mere coincidence and not The Right Honourable Pierre Trudeau, balancing the scales … doing, what was right.

    I now offer to you a quote from The Right Honourable Herb Gray on the occasion of the death of Pierre Trudeau:

    “He dealt with people on the basis of their talents, not their background,” said Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray, who became the first Jewish member of the federal cabinet under Trudeau in 1969. “He was interested in building an inclusive society and fostering multiculturalism, which he entrenched in the Constitution. He was a giant.

    Could there be any greater tribute?

    Google this … “pierre trudeau and herb gray”. Learn. It only takes a few minutes. Show The Right Honourable Pierre Trudeau and the Right Honourable Herb Gray the respect they deserve.

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  7. Profile photo of Peter Haley Peter Haley said on

    “He dealt with people on the basis of their talents, not their background,” said Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray. Give someone a long enough rope and he’ll hang himself.

    No one is arguing Trudeau was great and a standard bearer for the LPC and this nation. My first post said he was one of my few heroes.

    Learning history by googling is a dangerous thing in the hands of someone who just can’t leave well enough alone.

    Pierre Trudeau was also the first Prime Minister who rode around the Giza pyramids on a camel. He was also the first who twirled behind the Queen, and the first to wear sandals to Parliament. He was unconventional and an iconoclast. And yes he appointed the first Jew to a federal Cabinet!

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    • Profile photo of Martin Showell Martin Showell said on

      That’s right Peter, I’m so glad you finally got it! “He” dealt with people based on their talents. Unlike his predecessors who were afraid to do the right thing for the right reasons, Pierre had the courage of his convictions.

      Thank you for admitting your error. Yes Herb Gray was the first Jewish Cabinet Minister. And yes it is relevant to a discussion of Mr Trudeau’s achievements. Not so hard really was it?

      Googling is a great way to learn, you should try it sometime. It would save everyone all the time and effort of pointing out your mistakes if you just did a little research of your own before posting.

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      • Profile photo of Peter Haley Peter Haley said on

        I give up, you win. Not sure what you won, or if there will be a Diamond Jubilee Medal awaiting your reception, but let me be the first to congratulate you on making Bob Rae’s tribute post to our foremost Prime Minister a personal vendetta. Can’t wait for your acceptance speech.

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  8. Profile photo of Ken Cunningham Ken Cunningham said on

    http://www.canoe.ca/che-mun/102trudeau.html

    Happy birthday Mr Trudeau, this is for you and for us. Still a great and inspiring read, even after almost 60 years now.
    If you do read through take a look at the post script at the end. Indeed the should name a great and wild Northern river for the honour of this truly astonishing Canadian.

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    • Profile photo of Ken Cunningham Ken Cunningham said on

      I know a man whose school could never teach him patriotism, but who acquired that virtue when he felt in his bones the vastness of his land, and the greatness of those who founded it.

      PM Chretien read those words in the HoCs in tribute to Pierre following his death. They never fail to move me deeply.

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      • Profile photo of Peter Haley Peter Haley said on

        I hadn’t read those words until now, and agree they are very moving.

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  9. Profile photo of Martin Showell Martin Showell said on

    No this post is not about Jews, of course not.

    But John, do you think it was relevant that Bob Rae brought to our attention all the “firsts” concerning women in his blog post?

    Of course PET did not choose Herb Grey “because” he was Jewish.

    Any more than he appointed … the first female Speakers of both the Senate and the House of Commons, the first female justice of the Supreme Court, the first female Governor General and influential female cabinet ministers, like Monique Bégin and Judy Erola … just “because” they were women – that’s the point!

    So, I have a question for you John, and for you Peter and for you André …

    … why is it any less relevant to a discussion of Pierre Trudeau’s accomplishments to point out that he appointed Mr Gray (the first Jewish Cabinet Minister) than it is to point out all the above “firsts” regarding women?

    Sorry, I really don’t understand the difference … and I thank Ken for bringing it to our collective attention. It is relevant and it was an achievement … to me and to many others.

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  10. Profile photo of André Brisebois André Brisebois said on

    Hi all,
    To echo John’s comment, this is about the Rt. Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s anniversary. Let’s bring back the discussion on topic and celebrate his achievements and what he has done for our country. Cheers!

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