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Pierre Elliot Trudeau

1919 - 2000

Liberal prime minister of Canada for most of 1968-1984. Trudeau led a succession of minority and majority governments, with one six-month loss of government to the Progressive Conservatives under Joe Clark in 1979, until 1984. His government patriated the Canadian Constitution and drafted a Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) that has been the plaything of liberal jurists ever since. In his speeches and writings, some of which are quoted here on conservativeforum.org, Trudeau often sounded like a classical liberal, but his actions in government contradicted his expressed beliefs in liberty and, especially, limited government.

All the demands made of Canada by the Quebec nationalists can be summed up in just one: keep giving us new powers and the money to exercise them, or we'll leave. If Quebecers are offered the chance to have their cake and eat it too, naturally they will accept.

1996 - from Against the Current : Selected Writings, Gerard Pelletier, ed., McLelland and Stewart, Toronto
 I will not leave Ottawa until the country and the government are irreversibly bilingual.

1975 - quoted in Columbo's New Canadian Quotations by John Robert Columbo
 It's made it much more difficult for us as Liberals to talk of bilingualism since Quebec has begun to talk of unilingualism.

1976 - quoted in Columbo's New Canadian Quotations by John Robert Columbo
 [Regarding Canadian constitutional provisions which specially recognize collective rights of native people, multi-cultural rights of newer Canadians, and women's rights] The only effect of these Charter provisions is to give individuals belonging to these collectivities an additional guarantee of protection against any interpretation of the Charter whereby their rights could be overlooked.

1996 - from Against the Current : Selected Writings, Gerard Pelletier, ed., McLelland and Stewart, Toronto
 The decision by the Canadian government that a second language be given increased official recognition is, in indirect fashion, support for the cultivation and use of many languages, because it is a breach of the monopoly position of one language and an elevation of the stature of the languages that are 'different.'

Oct. 9, 1971 - from a speech to the Ukranian-Canadian Congress
Essentially a constitution is designed to last a long time. Legal authority derives entirely from it, and if it is binding only for a short period it is not binding at all. A citizen - to say nothing of a power group - will not feel obliged to respect laws or governments he considers unfavourable to him if he thinks that they can be easily replaced. If the rules of the constitutional game are to be changed in any case, why not right now? A country where this mentality is prevalent oscillates between revolution and dictatorship.

1968 - from Federalism and the French Canadians, Macmillan, Toronto
We are going to be governed whether we like it or not; it is up to us to see to it that we are governed no worse than is absolutely unavoidable. We must therefore concern ourselves with politics, as Pascal said, to mitigate as far as possible the damage done by the madness of our rulers.

The great lesson to draw from revolutions is not that they devour humanity but rather that tyranny never fails to generate them.

1958 - from "When the People Are In Power"
For unscrupulous politicians, there is no surer way of rousing feelings that to trumpet a call to pride of race. French Canadians will be rid of this kind of politician if the blackmail ceases, and the blackmail will cease only if Canada refuses to dance to that tune.

Sep. 28, 1992 - quoted in Maclean's Magazine
[Quebec nationalism] I am afraid that excessive preoccupation with the future of the language has made certain people forget the future of the person speaking it. A working man may care about his language and cultural values; he also cares very strongly about having a decent life with the risk of losing the little he has through some misguided political adventure.

1968 - from Federalism and the French Canadians, Macmillan, Toronto
 Let us overthrow the totems, break the taboos. Or better, let us consider them cancelled. Coldly, let us be intelligent.

1950 - from "Politique fonctionnelle"
Our strength lies in our national will to live and work together as a people. Weaken that will, that spirit of community, and you weaken Canada. Weaken Canada, and you damage all the parts, no matter how rich some of those parts may be.

Nov. 19, 1979 - from a speech delivered in Toronto
The philosophy of the Liberal Party is very simple say anything, think anything, or better still, do not think at all, but put us in power because it is we who can govern you best.

 There is no such thing as a model or ideal Canadian. What could be more absurd than the concept of an "all-Canadian" boy or girl?

Oct. 9, 1971 - from a speech to the Ukranian-Canadian Congress
We are confronted by the ageless paradox that certain kinds of freedom, such as the freedom to pursue excellence, are impossible without rules. We limit one kind of freedom in order to promote another. The wisest among us impose rules with a light touch.

April 2, 1976 - from a speech delivered in Toronto
 I was my best successor, but I decided not to succeed myself.

1984 - at a press conference announcing his resignation
Canada is not a country for the cold of heart or the cold of feet.