Pierre Elliott Trudeau:
A Leader Among Leaders
By RENÉE HUANG
The Globe and Mail
September 29, 2000
Regardless of political stripe or nationality, leaders at home and around the world are weighing in on the former prime minister's place in history.
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Montego Bay, Jamaica for trade talks, said in a statement that Mr. Trudeau was "the embodiment of the dream of a just society.... Above all, the forces of change that he set in motion continue to shape the soul of his people.
"He believed that what we had in common was the source of our strength, and that what set us apart enriched all of us. On the international stage, he gave us a profile and stature well beyond our size and power."
Mr. Chrétien told reporters that he was cutting short his trade talks to appear in parliament tomorrow at 10 a.m. The House of Commons will adjourn on Friday.
His voice shaking with emotion, Mr. Chrétien paid homage to his political predecessor.
"He set a series of policies that changed Canada forever," he said. "He made our country a country with great values where people can trust each other, a generous country where the people are willing to share, a country where tolerance is a great pride.... He made our country a model."
Speaking alternately in English and French, the Prime Minister described an "extraordinary experience" he had earlier when he met with Latin American leaders who spoke about Mr. Trudeau's legacy.
"Today I had an extraordinary experience because I was with the heads of state of Latin American countries who have known violence, who have known poverty and who talked with nothing but admiration for our country Canada. Pierre Trudeau was a builder of this country, which is now a model for the world.
"He was an extraordinary man and wherever I go today, people talk to me of Mr. Trudeau.... He had a vision in which I believe, in which Liberals believe, and in which the majority of Canadians believe. His vision of a country of generosity, sharing, trust will last. We have to keep on fighting for these values that make all of us so proud when we are abroad to say we are Canadian."
Mr. Chrétien also recalled speaking to Mr. Trudeau shortly after the death of his son last year. "When he lost his son Michel, he wasn't the same person. Now he's back with him. Canadians owe him a lot."
Mr. Chrétien said he would return immediately to Canada to share in the country's mourning.
"We will be able to pay an appropriate tribute to Mr. Trudeau, and we have now to go back and take the plane because I believe in a moment like that, the Prime Minister has to be with all Canadians."
Canada's Governor General Adrienne Clarkson issued a statement in which she remembered Mr. Trudeau as an incredibly spirited politician and man who captivated the nation for nearly forty years.
"His intelligence, often acerbic, always brilliant, exercised a formidable and irresistible fascination which intrigued us all," Ms. Clarkson said. "He showed us that it was a worthwhile and honest thing to do. He stimulated us to sensations, feelings and thoughts that challenged us.... His legacy, personal and public, is to confirm us in our understanding of what our nation is, and must be, to fulfill its original destiny."
Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day recalled being inspired as a 17-year-old campaign volunteer for Mr. Trudeau's opposition in the 1970s.
"I was only 17 but I was absolutely struck by his energy, his unbridled love for the country.... I found out early that you could debate his policies but you could not debate his tenacity," Mr. Day told CBC television news.
"He did not go into political life for a job. He went in because he had a vision.
Even if they did not share political beliefs, the intensity of Mr. Trudeau's love for Canada and his vision for the country was one that inspired many of his political foes.
"I was surprised that death came so quickly," Conservative leader Joe Clark told CBC. Although he described the relationship between himself and Mr. Trudeau as being "on different sides of parliament, on different issues," Mr. Clark said he mourned the loss with all Canadians.
"He had an extraordinary impact on the country. He set a standard others will be following for a long time.... In many ways he was able to bring out the best in the country. He was a man who made an extraordinary difference in the country."
Former federal leader of the NDP, Ed Broadbent said, "He was a dominant politician of our age in Canada. He did a lot of good. It's a sad moment in the history of our country."
Alberta Premier Ralph Klein noted his province had some differences with Mr. Trudeau. "But no one ever doubted his commitment to a strong, united Canada or to its principles of justice and equality. He fought hard for this country, and his contributions will not be forgotten."
Former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney acknowledged that he had significant political disagreements with Trudeau, but called him a gallant political warrior who loved his country and devoted much of his life to its service.
Ontario Premier Mike Harris said: "He really has inspired one, maybe two generations of Canadians to have a renewed interest in politics.
"He was a prime minister who had a tremendous respect for and belief for Canada.... He was an extraordinary leader. He was a prime minister who had an extraordinary impact on the country."
Overseas, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has issued a statement of sympathy as has U.S. President Bill Clinton.
"I was deeply saddened to learn today of the death of Pierre Trudeau. As prime minister for nearly a generation, Pierre Trudeau opened a dynamic new era in Canadian politics and helped establish Canada's unique imprint on the global stage," said Mr. Clinton.