Pierre Elliot Trudeau


Published in 1968, Federalism and the French Canadians is

an ideological anthology featuring a series of essays written

by Pierre Elliot Trudeau during his time spent with the

Federal Liberal party of Canada. The emphasis of the book

deals with the problems and conflicts facing the country

during the Duplessis regime in Quebec. While Trudeau

stresses his adamant convictions on

Anglophone/Francophone relations and struggles for equality

in a confederated land, he also elaborates on his own

ideological views pertaining to Federalism and Nationalism.

The reader is introduced to several essays that discuss

Provincial legislature and conflict (Quebec and the

Constitutional Problem, A Constitutional Declaration of

Rights) while other compositions deal with impending and

contemporary Federal predicaments (Federal Grants to

Universities, The Practice and Theory of Federalism,

Separatist Counter-Revolutionaries). Throughout all these

documented personal accounts and critiques, the reader

learns that Trudeau is a sharp critic of contemporary Quebec

nationalism and that his prime political conviction (or thesis)

is sporadically reflected in each essay: Federalism is the only

possible system of government that breeds and sustains

equality in a multicultural country such as Canada. Trudeau is

fervent and stalwart in his opinions towards Federalism and

its ramifications on Canadian citizenry. Born and raised in

Quebec, he attended several prestigious institutions that

educated him about the political spectrum of the country.

After his time spent at the London School of Economics,

Trudeau returned to Quebec at a time when the province

was experiencing vast differences with its Federal overseer.

The Union Nationale, a religious nationalist movement

rooted deep in the heart of Quebec culture, had forced the

Federal government to reconcile and mediate with them in

order to avoid civil disorder or unrest. The Premier of

Quebec at the time, Maurice Duplessis, found it almost

impossible to appease the needs of each diverse interest

group and faction rising within the province and ultimately

buckled underneath the increasing pressure. Many

Francophones believed that they were being discriminated

and treated unfairly due to the British North American Act

which failed to recognize the unique nature of the province in

its list of provisions. Trudeau, with the aid of several

colleagues, fought the imminent wave of social chaos in

Quebec with anti-clerical and communist visions he obtained

while in his adolescent years. However, as the nationalist

movement gained momentum against the Provincial

government, Trudeau came to the startling realization that

Provincial autonomy would not solidify Quebec's future in

the country (he believed that separatism would soon follow)

and unless Duplessis could successfully negotiate (on the

issue of a constitution) with the rest of Canada, the prospect

of self-sovereignty for Quebec would transpire. His first

essay (Quebec and the Constitutional Problem) explores the

trials and tribulations which occurred between the Provincial

and Federal governments during the ensuing constitutional

problems in Canada. Trudeau candidly lambastes and

ridicules the Federal Government's inability to recognize the

economic and linguistic differences in Quebec. He defends

the province by stating that "The language provisions of the

British North American Act are very limited" and therefore

believes that they continue to divide the country and aid the

nationalist movement in Quebec. Using an informal, first

person writing approach, Trudeau makes it clear that his

words are for reactionaries, not revolutionaries who are

looking to destroy the political fabric of the country.

However, Trudeau considers possible alternatives and

implications in the second essay (A Constitutional

Declaration of Rights) and offers possible resolutions to the

everlasting cultural dilemma plaguing both parties involved.

One of his arguments is that the Federal government must

take the initiative and begin the constitutional sequence to

modify and adapt to the growing needs of all the provinces,

not only Quebec. "One tends to forget that constitutions

must also be made by men and not by force of brutal

circumstance or blind disorder", was his response to the

perpetual ignorance of the Federalist leaders who stalled and

dodged on the issue of equality and compromise throughout

the country. At this point in the essay, Trudeau relied on his

central thesis for the book and used it to prove his

application of constitutional reform using the Federal

government as the catalyst. Trudeau had already formulated

his visions of the perfect constitution and how it would

include "A Bill of Rights that would guarantee the

fundamental freedoms of the citizen from intolerance,

whether federal or provincial". Each and every one of his

proposals demonstrated innovative thought and pragmatic

resolve for a striving politician who believed in Democracy

before Ideology. The emphasis he places on equality and

individualism is a testimonial to his character and integrity as

a politician. The next essay (The Practice and Theory of

Federalism) is the opening composition for Trudeau's firm

stance on Federalism and how it can be applied to the

current Executive system of administration already