Am I going to write a blog posting about P.M.#15, Pierre Trudeau? Just watch me!

And now we reach a Prime Minister that I know something about. In grade 10 history class, we had to pick a Prime Minister and write an essay about them. I picked Trudeau. I remember being really pissed off at the mark I got on the essay1 and I’m pretty sure I only got such a bad mark because I said nice things about Trudeau and my teacher didn’t like him. Anyhoo, the upshot of all this is that I actually learned some stuff about him, unlike all the rest of the P.M.s, who I’m sure the teacher lectured about, but I rarely remember anything I hear in a lecture beyond the final exam. As well, resident historian Sarah, of Dief guest blog posting fame, once taped the Trudeau movie starring Colm Feore, for me. Like on a VHS tape (we are old). And I saw a Brechtian-style play called something like “Trudeau & the FLQ,” part of a series of Brechtian plays on the history of Canada, with my first year Drama class when I was at McMaster. So I know a thing or two about ole’ Pierre.

Name Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott Trudeau
Born: October 18, 1919 in Montreal, Quebec
Died: September 28, 2000
Party: Liberal
Held Office: April 20, 1968 – June 4, 1979

March 3, 1980 – June 30, 1984

Best known for: -his charisma (Trudeaumania!)

-wearing a red rose on his lapel

-doing a pirouette behind the Queen

-as Minister of Justice, he introduced a bill that, among other things, decriminalized homosexuality, saying “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation”

-as P.M., he invoked the War Measures Act during the October Crisis of 1970 (in which the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) kidnapped British Trade Consul James Cross and Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte); the War Measures Act gave the government powers to arrest & detain people without trial. Another one of his famous quotations came when he was asked by the media just how far he would go to stop the FLQ; he replied, “Just watch me.”

-starting his tenure as P.M. as a bachelor, Trudeau married Margaret Sinclair, who was 30 years younger than him, in 1971; they would have three sons while Pierre was in office – Justin, Alexandre (Sasha) and Michel – and later divorce. During the eve of the 1979 election when Trudeau’s government was defeated, Margaret was seen dancing at Studio 54. If memory serves me, Margaret also ran off with the Rolling Stones at one point

-the defeat of the 1980 Quebec referendum on separation

-patriating the Canadian Constitution – before this, the Canadian Constitution was a British law and amending it required an act of the British parliament; patriation meant that Canada could now amend its own Constitution2. Also, the Charter of Rights & Freedoms was established within the Constitution at this time.

-after retiring, he continued to influence the country – e.g., he spoke out against both the Charlottetown & Meech Lake accords (attempts to amend the Constitution), both of which failed

-he is regarded by many as the father of “Western alienation” due to what the west saw as his favouring Ontario & Quebec, implementing a National Energy Program that many felt deprived the west of the benefits of their oil & gas (so mainly Alberta was pissed at this) and he gave the finger to some protesters in Salmon Arm, BC.

Some Things I Didn’t Know About This P.M. -in the 1950s he was banned from the U.S. for his lefty tendencies, a ban that he appeal and had rescinded

-His full name was Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott Trudeau (do you think he has enough names??) Usually he’s referred to as “Pierre Elliot Trudeau”)

-up until his funeral in 2000, I didn’t know that Trudeau had a daughter, with fellow lawyer Deborah Coyne

-yeah, there’s not much about Trudeau that I hadn’t already heard.

Five former P.M.s: Right Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Right Honourable John N. Turner, Right Honourable Kim Campbell, Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, and Right Honourable Joe Clark.

If you are just dying to read more about Trudeau, check out

Margaret & Pierre Trudeau, 1972

“Just watch me”: I think my favourite part is the part where he says “bleeding hearts.”

1It was an 80%. And I didn’t get 80%s back then, so I was not impressed.
2The whole story behind the patriation of the Constitution could be a blog posting in and of itself. And I’m sure there’s been eleventy billion books written on the topic, so if you are interested, go read one of those.

Image credits: Trudeau in the crowd and Margaret & Pierre photos are from the Library and Archives Canada, copyright was assigned to Library & Archives Canada by copyright owner Duncan Cameron and there are no restrictions on the use of these photos. The picture of the 5 P.M.s is also from the Library & Archives Canada, no restrictions on use.

Comments |6|

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  • Truly a great Canadian.

    I saw him twice in my life in person. First time was as a first-year university student in 1978 when he gave a speech at the UBC Student Union Building. Place was jam-packed. There was this real jerk a row over from us heckling him all through his Q&A. As Trudeau tried to answer a difficult question – what he attributed voter apathy to – the heckler piped up: Selling fear Mr. Prime Minister, selling fear!

    Trudeau burned in to him with: look, if you don’t want my answers, don’t ask me question, you creep. He was directing his anger at that one heckler, but in a TV ad during the next election, the Tories claimed that Trudeau called ALL college students “creeps.”

    Second time I met him was many years later, while skiing in the Eastern Townships – 1992 or 3 I think. He was still a great skier – we got some photos of him for the paper I was working for – Sherbrooke Record.

    Thanks for the look back.


  • Reply

  • @Ian – You are welcome! Did you watch the video? Interesting that the media spun that incident as if Trudeau was calling all college student “creeps” – um, wasn’t he a law prof at one point? As if he’d disparage college peeps! Sounds similar to the giving the finger incident in Salmon Arm… from what I read, the protesters were yelling anti-French/anti-Quebec things, but people always talk about it as “Trudeau gave the finger to westerners.”

    @Raul – Which son do you think is not hot? Or are you speaking only of Justin & Sasha because Michel has passed away?


  • That “just watch me” clip is pretty well-known to anyone who’s ever watched a documentary on the October Crisis. It was a pivotal moment.

    Trudeau also had his fans from Western Canada – as you can probably tell, I’m one of them. The anti-Trudeau pack is mostly Alberta, which went uninterruped Tory for ages. Trudeau’s goal was always a strong federal government to help keep the country breaking apart, which is why he brought in official bilingualism and a break on oil prices for all Canadians. That Albertans didn’t like to share doesn’t surprise me, but that says more about them than it does about Trudeau.


  • I actually thought Michel was super hot too (all three are hot). I am really saddened that Michel passed away, even if it was a while ago. I don’t think any of his family members recovered from it.


  • I forgot that I had taped the movie for you!!


    – Before I really knew about the repressive Duplessis regime, I never really understood what Trudeau did (and why it took him so long to get a job) in his early career. He and people like Jeanne Sauvé were totally blackballed during that period. But did you know that he spent some of that time working for/with the federal civil service?
    – The two living sons were both born on Xmas Day. Michel shared his birthday with me (and Ghandi and Sting).
    – Did I ever tell you that my Aunt Pat ran into Trudeau on a Montreal street in the mid-1980s. She was (still is) a nice looking lady, and Trudeau checked her out and smiled at her. Too funny! Why do I only run into people like John Ba*ird and Dav*id Emmerson?


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