Pierre Trudeau remains the most divisive Prime Minister in Canadian History – he is both loved and loathed. But for all this controversy, he was a champion of One Canada. He boldly fought against what he perceived as “The Two Solitudes” – where English and French Canada did not speak – and fought to bring them together. There likely has never been a stronger nationalist leader in our country who believed in the rule of law, equal rights of all Canadians, and a limited role of Government in the social fabric of our society.
While his economic policies, such as the National Energy Policy, and the rather inarticulate Constitution and Charter of Rights, still remain controversial, his commitment to One Canada does not. No modern Prime Minister did more to foster a sense of unity and pride in One Canada, than did Pierre Trudeau.
It is, therefore, deeply disappointing that his son, Justin, has moved in the exact opposite direction. Within the liberal movements in Canada and the USA, there has been a trend to abandon the one country policy, and use identity politics (tribalism), to dice and slice up the electorate into ever smaller segments of society. The goal is to define them, and then to make a pitch to them about how all Conservatives are against minorities, and that only liberals will protect minorities from the rath and prejudice of the majority.
Gone are the days of JFK and “think not of what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”. Or where Pierre Trudeau said “The country (Canada) will only remain united – it should only remain united – if its citizens want to live together in one civil society.” The idea of one country, with a multinational basis, was a strong belief of Trudeau Sr. No one can deny that Pierre Trudeau was a strong believer in the law – and in Canada. No one in the 20th century did more to bring Canada together. If it were not for his belief in one country, then it is almost certain that Canada would have broken up with the rise of Rene Levesque and the Parti Quebecois and its separatist mandate.
Trudeau Jr. is carving out niche after niche after niche. Catering to any and all groups that claim special status. The reality is that under the first Trudeau we all were happy to be Canadians – while under the second Trudeau – he wants us all to be hyphenated Canadians, LGBTQ 2S+ – Canadians, First Nation-Canadians, Indo-Canadians, first generation- Canadians, Muslim-Canadians, etc. etc.
The only time that Justin Trudeau spoke in similar tones to his father was saying “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian”, but sadly it was in connection with Zakaria Amara, a Jordanian-Canadian, who was serving a life sentence for a plot to kill scores of Canadians. When the bill to remove his citizenship was enacted by the previous government, allowing Mr. Amara to be deported to his home country of Jordan, Trudeau Jr. removed this legislation after he became PM, ensuring that this convicted terrorist (and others) will remain in Canada. He insisted that even terrorists were Canadians.
It is sad then, that Trudeau Jr. did not learn the lessons of his father in believing in one country, one Canada. I am sure what Pierre would have thought of the hyphenation of Canada and its citizens under his son.