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Essay/Term paper: Pierre elliot trudeau

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Humanities

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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 on Federalism and how it can be applied to the

current Executive system of administration already in turmoil

with its dominion. "Federalism is by its very essence a

compromise and a pact" is his comment on why the Federal

government of Canada has a responsibility to seek out the

general consensus of the people when dealing with

constitutional reform. This reinforces his central thesis for the

book which is mentioned in the opening paragraph of this

critique; however, their is a partial, obstructed observation

made on Trudeau's part when he declines to mention the

efforts of the contemporary Federal bureau which had made

attempts to negotiate with Quebec (although in vain). Finally,

the last essay (Federalism, Nationalism and Reason) is a

creative piece of literature in which Trudeau exonerates the

possibility of state manipulation and exploitation in dealing

with the masses (the socialist tendencies of Trudeau are quite

blatant through his immense historical knowledge and

political shrewdness). Although he brings up the possible

implications of a rejected Federalist state, he seems to scorn

and laugh at the idea; "Separatism a revolution? My eye. A

counter-revolution; the national socialist counter-revolution".

Such passages are indicative of the attitude Trudeau held

towards the political disorder of his own country and

magnifies his disgust towards the sluggish and immobile

Duplessis regime. Throughout all these radical and riveting

compositions, the reader is faced with an extremely

unorthodox writing style which consists of both formal and

informal essay techniques. Federalism and the French

Canadians presents the reader with a superlative ideological

perspective of "how" and "why" the executive branch of the

country should be functioning in the eyes of Pierre Trudeau.

Although recognized as nothing more than a political activist

at the time of the ongoing political/social crisis in Canada,

Trudeau served as an adviser to the Privy Council Office in

1950 and subsequently became a professor of Law at the

University of Montreal in 1960. His inauguration into the

Federal Liberal Party in 1965 as well as his future

involvement with the Federal government (Constitutional

Lawyer, Minister of Justice, Prime Minister of Canada)

would bolster his credibility in this book. Not only does he

stress the importance and validity of the Canadian political

scope when dealing with his theories, but his historical and

economical evaluation of the world in general serves as a

competent and impartial method of comparing analogies.

Trudeau had always been labelled as a radical or socialist,

but upon reading his anthology, the reader accepts the notion

that he was an advocate of liberalism and democracy. I

would consider his interpretations of Federalism and Quebec

heritage as being substantially valid even in the acrimonious

way in which Trudeau addresses the issues; "Without

equality, one has a dictatorship" (such indiscriminate

assessments of the Canadian government magnify the

strength AND weaknesses of each essay) . The only visible

weakness in his analysis would be the position in which he

views the Provincial government under Duplessis (weak,

subordinate, naive) and this perhaps taints most of his

bi-partisan observations towards how the Federal

government would treat Francophones under a unilateral

constitution. Otherwise, each and every proposition

presented to the reader is heavily supported and reinforced

by the central theme in the book which, in effect, could be

viewed as a strength; he supports the majority of his

Federalist arguments with quotes from noted dignitaries and

political leaders from the past and present such as Lord

Acton (while defending Federalism in Canada), Mao

Tse-Tung (when referring to Quebec's hostile and

intolerance with Canada), Aristotle (when discussing the

perfect democratic union with Quebec) and Nikita

Khrushchev (in support of constitutional reform and the

possible effects of Dictatorships). Several of his essays had

also been published in Montreal and Toronto during the late

1960's and his address to the Canadian Bar Association on

September 4th, 1967 is featured in its entirety in his book

(Trudeau used these facts to strengthen and reinforce his

expertise and experience in the field). The material featured

in Federalism and the French Canadians is excessively

difficult to digest and should be read by a student who is

familiar with the historical and political dilemmas presented in

the compositions. Although efficiently organized (dealing with

Quebec and social bedlam followed by solutions offered by

Federalism), the book is a challenge to understand in

respects to how Trudeau plunges into each scenario and

issue with enormous furor and enthusiasm. He generally

expects the reader to have a large degree of background

knowledge on the subject of Federalism and Quebec.

Without being informed beforehand on the domestic

difficulties of the country, this particular reader surely would

have been drowned in a sea of political jargon and complex

narrative insight. Nevertheless, Pierre Trudeau captivated my

imagination with his perspective of life in Canada and the

future of the country without a stable government. "My

political action; or my theory - insomuch as I can be said to

have one - can be expressed very simply: create

counter-weights", is how Trudeau described the rationale

behind his ideological thinking and how he downplayed the

stagnant political situation in Canada that suppressed its

greatest strength; representation and unity by a multicultural

society...a government that enshrined the rights and liberties

of its people and distributed the freedom and respect

accordingly regardless of ethnic or cultural discrepancies. I

thoroughly enjoyed reading this complex and unprecedented

book; it provided a concise and insightful portrait of the role

that Federalism plays in Quebec's backyard during the

middle of the 20th century. For a student who finds himself

caught up in 21st century politics, it is both a shock and a

pleasant surprise to climb back into history and discover the

productive and ideological perspective of a man who would

eventually rise to the occasion and become Prime Minister of

Canada. Material such as this should be featured on the

curriculum for all students to gaze upon, let alone only be

recommended by critics who have studied the works of

Trudeau. Such monumental beliefs embodied into one man is

reason enough for a student in University or High School to

open Federalism and the French Canadians and learn more

about Pierre Elliot Trudeau. 

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