Federalism and the French Canadian - Pierre Trudeau.

Essay by bcaverhillUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, September 2003

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Pierre Trudeau was always a bit of a paradox. He grew up in a bilingual household in a bilingual city in the only francophone political state in North America. He came of age right along with Quebec's fabled Quiet Revolution, leading the way as a voice for reform. Always independently wealthy, he adopted a modest form of socialism, constantly looking out for the farmers and blue collar workers with whom he shared so little. He received the finest education: Harvard, Paris, and London. Yet, a teaching position in Quebec was long denied him. Not surprising then, Trudeau developed original ideas and a unique attitude towards the political situation in Canada in general and Quebec in particular. As a product of "la belle province" he was naturally an advocate for increased provincial autonomy. However, at the same time he harshly criticized the local government of the day for corruption and incompetence.

Needless to say, this won him few friends from Quebec's nationalist community. Nevertheless, it is these ideas that are the basis for his 1968 compilation of essays, Federalism and the French Canadian. It provides a fascinating glimpse behind the public image of Trudeau and thirty years later shows just where he came from and what ideals and beliefs drove him.

A recurring theme running through the essays in the book is an us-versus-them mentality, giving credence to the two nations view and the Quebec/Rest of Canada cleavage. There is the real sense that Trudeau feels a bit left out, unable to affect real change (most of the essays were written before he entered federal politics in 1963. When the book was published he was Justice minister.). Although it would be natural for a Quebec intellectual to be concerned primarily with French-English relations, he seems to simplify all Canadian conflict...