Pierre Elliott Trudeau:
Paying homage at Trudeau's door
Saturday, September 30, 2000
MONTREAL -- In the steady procession to the front door of the grey art deco house at 1418 Pine Avenue, there is something curiously amiss.
They are all quite single-minded and correct in their mission. They make their way down the short walk to the door, a cellophane clutch of a single rose or a handful that is added to the growing pile.
They look down for a moment at the bank of flowers and then turn to leave. Some have their heads down, others look expectantly at the line of cameras because television interviews have become part of the public grieving process.
If they are asked, they all have their reasons for coming to Pine Avenue on a day that carries the bright sunshine of the uneasy chill of autumn to pay homage to Pierre Trudeau.
Mari Hoffman came here a lot in the months before the former prime minister stepped down. She helped him choose the draperies that would decorate the house when he moved from 24 Sussex Drive.
Sixteen years later, she still cannot get the strangeness. One day she would see him on television, debating the great issues of the world, the next day the two of them would be debating whether the draperies should have a white lining or a beige lining.
Vigi Gurushant told of how he had gone from India to England and had to make up his mind in 1968 whether to come to Canada or the United States. He came to Canada because it was peaceful and the new prime minister was Mr. Trudeau.
Eva Ravatti was born at the time that Mr. Trudeau first became prime minister in 1968. Thirty-two years later, she actually saw him for a moment a few months ago. The eyes, she said. Wow. They were really amazing.
He was very special, she said, "the only one I've ever laid a flower for."
One of the television reporters began telling the camera about the people who came to the door yesterday and he said that one of the early visitors was Guy Chrétien, brother of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.
The mention of Mr. Chrétien was a reminder that the man who lived in the art deco house overlooking the beautiful city commanded the love of just half the city.
The reporter didn't say so, but what made Mr. Chrétien different from the other visitors was that he is a francophone. That made him a rarity among those who went to pay homage at Pine Avenue yesterday.
When Mr. Trudeau stepped down from politics in the early summer of 1984, he left Ottawa to come home to Montreal. But his beloved Montreal never entirely returned the affection.
English Montrealers loved him, for he was their champion against the forces of separatism. New Canadians loved him because he made their adopted country seem a much more exciting place.
The secondary headline in yesterday's La Presse said it all: "The hero of English Canada." Nobody ever suggests Pierre Trudeau has heroic status in French Canada.
It's far more complicated than that. To some he is indeed a hero, and to some he is a villain, but the line is never very definite.
So Marcel Paradis, 61, was walking along Rachel Street in the bright sunshine and he seemed gently amused by the idea of talking about Pierre Trudeau. Well, he said, he had never voted for him and was always against him.
But you had to admit that he did know how to sell his ideas. He was very skillful at that. He was a dreamer, a utopian. Look at his idea of a bilingual Canada coast to coast. It'll never happen.
Still, he did give the country the Charter of Rights, and that was a good thing.
But then there was the FLQ crisis when this great champion of civil liberties threw all his friends in jail. Mr. Paradis shook his head. The man was an extremist, he said.
As he turned to leave Mr. Paradis paused and frowned and half-smiled. "I'm sympathetic to him nonetheless."
Around the corner on St. Denis street, Hervé Brousseau is in no doubt about how he feels toward Pierre Trudeau. But as he contemplates a beer he concedes that it may seem confusing.
No, he doesn't like Pierre Trudeau. And in the next breath he says the man was brilliant, intelligent and elegant.
And as for the War Measures Act, well, that was infamous. The man who had always worked for civil rights sent 500 poets and intellectuals to jail just so that he could lock up a handful of terrorists.
Reminded of his own description of Mr. Trudeau's intelligence, brilliance and values, Mr. Brousseau smiles defiantly. Yes to all that, he said, but he still didn't like him.
If there was anybody who understood the contrast between the adoration on Pine Avenue and the curious ambivalence of hostility and admiration on the streets on the eastern half of the city, it would have been Pierre Trudeau.
He would not have liked it, but he would have understood.
The following is a partial list of locations at which condolence books will be available:
Vancouver: Head office of B.C. Hydro
Calgary: McDougall Centre
Edmonton: Rotunda of Alberta Legislature (Monday, Tuesday)
Winnipeg: Manitoba Legislature (until Sunday), city hall (Monday, Tuesday)
Mississauga: The Great Hall in the Civic Centre (until Friday)
Toronto: Main lobby of Ontario legislative building (until Friday), city hall (until after the funeral)
St. Catharines: Atrium of city hall (Monday to Wednesday)
Pickering: Pickering City Library (Saturday, Sunday), Pickering Civic Complex (Monday-Friday)
St. John's: Outer foyer of the House of Assembly at the Confederation Building (until Monday)
The government has set up a Web site for people who wish to post their thoughts and condolences, which will be printed and sent to the Trudeau family. The address is http://www.trudeau.gc.ca.
In addition, you can go to http://www.globeandmail.com and click on the condolence discussion forum to express your views.
The Trudeau family said those who wish to make donations in his memory can make them to charities of their choice, or to the Canadian Cancer Society and the Pacific Parkinson's Research Institute in Montreal, or the Parkinson's Foundation of Canada in Toronto.