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Thursday, 28 September, 2000, 22:03 GMT 23:03 UK
Pierre Trudeau: Canada's charismatic prime minister
Pierre Trudeau, Canada's most charismatic premier
He captivated Canadians with his forceful personality
Pierre Elliot Trudeau swept to power in 1968 on a tide of Trudeaumania. Canadians had never seen anything quite like this 47 year-old unmarried lawyer who had only been in politics for three years.

He made an immediate impact on television, and his background of fast cars and athletic achievement, not to mention his readiness to kiss women in public, provided the press with endless copy.


Trudeau in 1968
Swept to power in 1968
Pierre Trudeau was born in Montreal, the son of a rich French-Canadian lawyer. He became a lawyer himself and in 1961 he was appointed associate Professor of Law at Montreal University.

Elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament in 1965, within two years he was appointed Minister of Justice in Lester Pearson's government. Despite his Catholic upbringing, he pushed through liberal reforms on such matters as divorce and abortion.

He succeeded Pearson in 1968 and, in that year's election, he won a sweeping victory with a stoutly-maintained federalist policy which drew violent opposition from Quebec separatists.

Mr Trudeau's youthful reputation won him great support among the young but, as time went on, many of those who had voted for him in 1968 became increasingly disillusioned by what they considered his cautious approach to the nation's problems.


Trudeau campaigning in 1980 referendum on Quebec secession
Successfully campaigning against Quebec secession
Nevertheless he put through an ambitious programme of legislation, including bills to amend the criminal code and to streamline the operation of Parliament and the enactment of a national health scheme.

He continued to confront Quebec's separatist movement while, at the same time, taking steps to allow the French language equal recognition with English in all government departments.

In 1970 Mr Trudeau postponed a visit to the Soviet Union because of a domestic crisis caused by the kidnapping of a British diplomat, James Cross and the Labour Minister for Quebec, Pierre Laporte.

Mr Trudeau's refusal to meet the kidnappers' demands resulted in M Laporte's murder, but James Cross was eventually released after his kidnappers had been allowed to leave Canada.

Early in 1971, at Commonwealth conference in Singapore, he spoke out against Britain¿s proposal to make limited sales of arms to South Africa.


Trudeau with wife Margaret
He married Margaret Sinclair, 30 years his junior
But his popularity began to fall when, in 1975, he introduced wage and price controls which he described as Canada's strongest programme of restraint since the war.

And his Government's efforts to promote the use of French caused resentment in English-speaking Canada.

In the same year unity worries of a different kind came to the fore with persistent rumours of a split between Mr Trudeau and his wife Margaret. She was then 22, nearly 30 years younger than her husband.

Finding public life little to her liking, she soon began to assert her independence. In 1977 a trip she made to New York, following a weekend of partying in Toronto with the Rolling Stones, drew unwelcome publicity.


The Queen signing the act that repatriated the Canadian constitution
The Queen "repatriates" the Canadian constitution
A legal separation was arranged and Mr Trudeau was granted custody of their three children.

In 1980 he successfully campaigned against separating Quebec from the rest of Canada when the idea was put to a referendum. His impassioned defence of the status quo won him great support.

And throughout 1981Trudeau was immersed in a campaign to abolish the right of the British parliament to amend Canada's constitution.

After long legal arguments with the Canadian provinces, he managed to swing a majority behind his plan. A Charter of Rights was added to the constitution to allow it to be amended.

Meanwhile, the Canadian economy was undergoing a severe recession. Rampant inflation, high interest rates and the worst unemployment figures since the 1930s, caused Trudeau's popularity to decline severely.


With Margaret Thatcher at 10 Downing Street
He clashed with Mrs Thatcher over arms sales to South Africa
Early in 1984 he visited various countries on a peace crusade, for which he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but his popularity did not improve at home. He resigned in June.

In 1998 his health began to fail noticeably after his youngest son, Michel, was killed in an avalanche while skiing in British Columbia.

During his time in office, Pierre Trudeau captivated Canada with his forceful personality and uncompromising vision of a bilingual, equitable society.

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