by Richard Gwyn
Seldom has there been a political leader so complex, so impossible to predict, so difficult to understand, so private and yet so public, as Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Canada's Prime Minister from 1968 to 1979, and again from 1980 to 1984.
"Canadians came to embrace him as they had no other leader since Wilfrid Laurier, Prime Minister from 1896 until 1911," writes Richard Gwyn, one of this country's most widely read and respected journalists. By the time of his death (September 28, 2000) the achievements Trudeau had established for Canada - the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, multiculturalism, a tolerance of differences, bilingualism, equality of the provinces with no special status for Quebec, an international policy of peacekeeping and "human security" - had become an inseparable part of the country.
It is more interesting, the author notes, that when high-school students, all born after Trudeau had left office in 1984, were asked by pollsters to name their Canadian heros, they placed Trudeau at the very top of their lists alongside Wayne Gretzky.