The Real Pierre Trudeau: Father of Canada’s Permissive Society
NOTE: this article has been updated with some additional information since it’s original publication in 2000.
There was a disturbing void in most reporting on the death of Pierre Trudeau during the idolizing media frenzy and pomp surrounding his death and lavish Catholic funeral. Very little of the substantial negatives of Trudeau’s policies were addressed. The media canonization of the former Prime Minister further conditioned Canadians to continue to be led in a deadly wrong direction by the Chretien Liberals.
Balance was seriously needed. Although some of the negatives were addressed by a few writers, Trudeau’s legacy on moral issues has been almost totally suppressed. This article is an attempt to correct the imbalance and place the former Prime Minister’s policies on these issues in their proper historical perspective as the ones that had the greatest impact on our nation.
What was Trudeau’s Real Legacy?
What was the real legacy of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau? That won’t be discovered from the massive, adoring coverage by Canada’s media since Trudeau’s death on Oct. 28.
Pierre Trudeau is a hero of the liberal media culture which conveniently insists that morality is a strictly personal matter to be determined by each individual and over which the state and even the church should have little authority.
Although there was already a cultural Revolution underway in the west in the ’60s, there was no popular organized movement in Canada clamoring for abortion rights, easier divorce or increased legitimacy for homosexuality. Still, Trudeau, as Justice Minister in 1967 and Prime Minister in 1969, imposed these upon Canadians, whether they wanted them or not. Trudeau insisted that Canada must adopt his permissive society even if Canadians did not realize where he was leading them.
Trudeau’s Abortion Law a Result of “Political Liberalism”
The story of the change in the abortion law via the 1969 Omnibus Bill is told in the pamphlet, The Secular State, 1985, by historian Fr. Alphonse de Valk.
De Valk states/
As Minister of Justice In 1967, Trudeau personally and on his own initiative introduced the Liberal government’s proposal for legalizing abortion, ignoring even the hearings which were being conducted on the subject by a joint House-of-Commons/ Senate committee. As he explained to the Calgary Herald in December 1967, he deliberately placed the abortion item amid 108 other items in an Omnibus Bill in order to weaken resistance to it.
As prime minister, and having won a second mandate in July 1968 with slogans such as ‘the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation’, Pierre Trudeau pushed ahead with his reforms. Trudeau saw to it that the legalization of abortion was enacted successfully in May 1969. Afterwards, no opposition to the new law was tolerated in his cabinet or even from the public: a demand for a review in the spring of 1975 which had over a million signatures was buried swiftly and efficiently.
A climax of sorts was reached on 22 May, 1975 when, according to the Globe and Mail, Trudeau hailed Dr. Henry Morgentaler as a ‘good friend, a fine humanitarian and a true humanist’. As late as 27 November, 1981, five days before the final vote on the repatriation of the Constitution and the Charter of Rights, Trudeau personally and again intervened in the abortion controversy by preventing members of his party from voting for an amendment introduced by David Crombie (PC), that ‘nothing in the Charter affects the authority of Parliament to legislate in respect to abortion’.
Lastly, Fr. de Valk reveals “why Pierre Trudeau, a practicing Catholic, should have been behind legislation which has created a situation of virtual abortion on demand. The answer to this puzzle can be given in two words, ‘political liberalism’. It has been Trudeau’s contribution to Canadian political life to articulate the view of secular political liberalism that, in modern times, God and religion have nothing to do with public and political life”.
Trudeau, above all, entrenched into Canadian politics the false and deadly new concept that public officials must not “impose” their “personal morality” (which always refers to traditional moral principles only) via legislation on moral issues. He stated to the BBC on July 13, 1970, “you can’t ask the totality of the people to accept my private morality as theirs. You have to make sure that the Criminal CodeâEUR¦represents not the private morals of the people who happen to be in government at that time, but represents what the people feel to be the basic public standards of ethical conduct.”
But of course Trudeau did impose his views on the public. His private, elitist view that morality has no place in law was bulldozed through Parliament and onto Canadian society. His private view was also that Canadians must be led to want his changes, not that they necessarily wanted them at the time – and Canadians, except for a small minority, were definitely not asking for the legalization of abortion.
As a Catholic, Trudeau was tragically mistaken that such a position can be validly held by a Catholic politician. His false Catholicism was a self-designed religion that actually undermined Canada’s Christian civilization. Pope John Paul II has made it clear that a politician cannot call himself a believing Christian and separate his political self from the Christian who has an obligation to act on the moral laws. Just recently the Vatican announced that on Nov. 5 the Pope will declare St. Thomas More the patron Saint of politicians. This sends a clear message to Catholic politicians that their first duty is to remain faithful to Christ, and the true good of the people, by always resisting pressure to politically co-operate with immorality – no matter what the consequences.
The 1969 Law Changes and Their Consequences Today
Trudeau made substantial changes to the Criminal Code and divorce law, liberalizing Canadian regulations on the matters of contraception, divorce, homosexuality, gross indecency and abortion. Abortion was permitted if it endangered the life or the very liberally interpreted “health” of the mother and only if approved by a committee of three doctors.
There was no significant public movement asking the government to make all these changes. The result of the changes was an eventual, dramatic increase in all the previously forbidden or more strictly regulated activities. Since law is a teacher, Canada’s entire moral foundation was undermined which, together with other trends of the times, led to a general collapse of the practical moral culture. That is, this radical liberalization on supposed “private” matters had enormous social, health and economic consequences.
Well over two million pre-born children have lost their lives and their mothers have suffered the consequences of abortion. Family life has been devastated by widespread marriage breakdown and the children of these marriages have suffered generations of pain and social disorientation. The birth rate has plummeted to well below replacement level and is still descending.
Sexually transmitted diseases have become a silent epidemic causing death, sterility, many other health complications, heartache and undoubtedly billions of dollars in health care expenses, medical research costs and lost productivity. Children have become far more sexually active and distressed by early loss of childhood and having to cope with matters too complex for them. The law’s now hands-off attitude towards morality has created a climate in which media sexploitation, pornography, prostitution, and the organized crime that always follow these things, are flourishing.
Trudeau’s Personal View on Abortion
Trudeau’s personal reasoning on abortion was contradictory and irrational. He stated in The Toronto Star Feb. 23, 1982 “I think that generally speaking, abortion is wrong and marriage should be forever.” The Star noted “Trudeau also said that although he has very strong moral values, based on his Catholicism, he doesn’t feel that he can impose them on other people.” Trudeau knew abortion was killing.
On September 25, 1976 he stated in Edmundston, New Brunswick “… I consider the fetus, the infant in the womb is a living being, a being we must respect, and I do not think we can kill him arbitrarily. There are cases where killing is legalâEUR¦. There are cases when it is legal to kill even an infant, but I am saying, when we killâEUR¦ we must answer to society. That is why our Omnibus Bill requires three doctorsâEUR¦ they are more competent than I, as regards to mental and physical health and I think it is a good law. It is easy for us men to be against abortion. I am against abortion. But I’ve never been pregnant, illegitimate or otherwiseâEUR¦ I believe we must listen to the woman’s side of the story”.
Trudeau “personally” believed abortion to be wrong, knew it was killing, yet, as far as we know, never apologized for initiating and leading the political actions that led to the massive increase in this killing. He persistently fought off all attempts to even modify the legislation which permitted the killing. In 1980 he still referred to his 1969 abortion amendment to the criminal code as a “reasonable” law.
Not only did Pierre Trudeau change the law to permit abortion, but his Liberal government also funded this killing through federal health care. In 1972 the Liberals, under Pierre Trudeau, began many years of substantial funding for Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada (PPF), Canada’s largest abortion referral service. In many other ways the Liberal government financed, promoted and defended abortion not only in Canada but also abroad, especially through funding of International Planned Parenthood. Pro-abortion radical feminism flourished almost entirely because of heavy Liberal government support and financing.
The Source of Trudeau’s philosophy
In brief, Trudeau’s philosophy and the foundation of his political actions was based on his great admiration and personal exposure to leftist individuals and movements. Fr. de Valk writes “at the London school of economics in the academic year 1947-48, Trudeau met Harold Laski, the intellectual Don of British labor socialism, whom Trudeau described as a ‘most stimulating and powerful influence’. Laski convinced him that Democratic socialism could answer the needs of society.
Trudeau visited Moscow a few times and reported favorably on Stalin’s totalitarianism in the magazine Cite Libre. He frequently expressed enthusiasm for Mao Tse Tung and China’s Communist regime, never referring to the mind-boggling number of lives that were snuffed out by that regime. He greatly admired Cuba’s Marxist despot Fidel Castro (Video) and publicly hugged his friend Castro during a trip to Cuba in 1976. Trudeau’s shout of “Vive Castro!” at a large public event during the trip was broadcast around the world. Link Byfield, in a September 30, 2000 Globe and Mail column, stated Trudeau “was once overheard by reporters remarking to Fidel Castro how much quicker and easier it would be to run things the Cuban way”.
The Power and Size of the State Mushroomed Under Trudeau
It is no wonder then that the size and power of government bureaucracy and spending ballooned under Pierre Trudeau. Canada’s economic and political order (or rather disorder), which for socialists is intimately connected to the social and moral order, has also never been the same since Pierre Trudeau.
Byfield states “he put us into a multi-generational national debt.””The net federal debt was $17 billion when he came in and $128 billion when he left. There was no federal deficit when he took control and a $25 billion dollar annual deficit by the time of his departure”. Inflation zoomed, interest rates skyrocketed and the dollar began its long descent.
Robert Fulford reports in the September 29 National Post “he kept his own cabinet on a short leash and made free discussion of issues a punishable offense. More importantly, he withdrew most of the power of the ministers and centralized all authority in his office and the Privy Council office.”
That corruption of parliamentary tradition, which gave dictatorial powers to the PM, has been continued by subsequent Prime Ministers, and most notably by 2013 Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has elevated control of his, rather than the people’s, MPs and the government to a degree perhaps never before experienced in Canadian history.
Trudeau’s attitude towards the democratically elected Members of Parliament was expressed in the quote “when they (opposition MPs) get out of Parliament, when they are fifty yards from Parliament Hill, they are no longer honourable members – they are just nobodys.”
In his 2013 released book, The Truth about Trudeau, author Bob Plamondon provides further insight into Trudeau’s authoritarian method of governing. In excerpts from the book in the May 25, 2013 National Post, Plamondon is quoted having written:
The PMO of R.B. Bennett had 12 staff. Mackenzie King initially ran the PMO with a similar number of staff, which he increased to 30 during the Second World War. Lester Pearson increased the PMO’s complement to 40. Trudeau more than doubled its size to 92 employees.”
and he adds:
“Trudeau did not condone independent voices in cabinet and was ruthless when it came to protecting cabinet secrecy, warning his ministers that if the source of any leak of cabinet information were identified, “the action taken would have to be merciless.” When reporters asked Trudeau if he was worried about dissension within Liberal ranks over his leadership, he replied, “If I found in my own ranks that a certain number of guys wanted to cut my throat I’d make sure I cut their throats first.”
In the 1970s Trudeau was openly hostile towards the Soviet Union’s slave satellite states who were trying to break away from Moscow’s iron grip. Fulford states “to Canada’s eternal shame, Trudeau expressed sympathy with the venomous General Wojceich Jaruzelski when the general imposed martial law on Poland in 1981, banned Solidarity and arrested union leaders.” Byfield states of Trudeau “He seemed to have the mind of a dictator, not a democrat.”
The Charter of Wrongs
Link Byfield states, “Parliament annoyed him, so he bulldozed his Charter of Rights into the Constitution (1982) and surrendered statutory supremacy to the court”. There was no significant public pressure whatever for a Charter of Rights. This did not come from the will of the people. It was sprung on Canadians by the will of Pierre Elliott Trudeau although, as was his usual strategy, he convinced many Canadians to make the Charter their own, even though they still don’t understand it. His famous quote explains this manipulation – “In terms of political tactics, the only real question democratic socialists must answer is: just how much reform can the majority of the people be brought to desire at the present time”. After all, who could be against cleverly labelled “rights and freedoms.”
Most Canadians have still not caught on that there was something odd about Trudeau, an admirer of Marxist regimes and contemptuous of Parliament and anyone who seriously challenged his policies, insisting that there must be Charter of individual rights and freedoms in the Constitution. Our well-proven Common Law tradition already guaranteed us fundamental rights and the flexibility to safely adjust legal rights and obligations as circumstances changed. Canada did not need the Charter.
Campaign Life Coalition was one of the few groups that understood the full implications of the Charter and valiantly but unsuccessfully fought against it. The Charter quickly became the Charter of Wrongs as its true purpose was implemented.
Laws made by the democratically elected federal and provincial legislatures are regularly struck down or changes read into law by unelected, unaccountable judges, often acting on personal biases and poor and inconsistent reasoning. The Charter has been repeatedly used by both government and special interest groups (most notably feminist and gay rights groups – their legal challenges funded by government grants!) to engineer unpopular, court-imposed social changes that would never have passed through our democratic legislatures or which, if rammed through, would have politically hurt the government in power.
The abortion law was struck down in 1988 on charter arguments, leaving us with no law on abortion. Most criminal restrictions on pornography have been struck down on Charter arguments. The judical activism striking down even child pornography laws in B.C almost two years ago on Charter arguments has still not been resolved.
Thanks to Pierre Trudeau our Canadian democracy has been crippled by this ball and chain that will be very difficult to remove.
Canada Lost Much More Than it Gained From Trudeau
Pierre Trudeau was greatly admired for his admittedly captivating, anti-establishment personality and antics and his great love for his children. He was unlike anyone we had ever seen before in Canadian politics.
This advent of a supremely confident, quick-witted and supposedly very intelligent leader seemed to follow naturally from the patriotic fervour and new-found confidence that came out of the extraordinary 1967 centennial celebrations. Many Canadians believe that Trudeau saved Canada by his handling of the Quebec separatist threat and the repatriation of the Constitution. Others dispute whether his policies did in fact save the country or whether the price we have paid as a nation for enduring Trudeau’s other policies have been worth the apparent gain in national unity.
There is no doubt that Trudeau was sincere, fascinating and gave Canada greater exposure on the world stage. Still, based on the evidence, it is quite reasonable to propose that we have lost far more than we gained as a nation for having Pierre Trudeau as our Prime Minister for sixteen years from April 1968 to February 29, 1984 (except for nine months in 1980). We could go so far as to agree with David Frum who stated in the National Post on Oct. 5, 2000 “Pierre Trudeau the leader was the most catastrophic prime minister in Canadian history.”
Nothing Compares in Significance to the Abortion Issue
How does all this information from the past apply to today? It applies in almost every way. We are still struggling greatly with the momentum of the radical changes begun in the Trudeau era. Previously in this article the deadly practical consequences of the changed laws on moral issues were listed. We are also still coping with much economic and political damage from the Trudeau government, the Damocles sword of the monstrous national debt and judicial activism being two of the most obvious.
It is the opinion of more than a few Canadians, though, that nothing compares in significance to the effect that abortion has had on our nation.
It has caused a cultural earthquake, the abortion culture, which corrupted every institution and individual that has co-operated with it and even many that have not adequately resisted it. The anti-child abortion culture has deprived us of millions of conceived citizens and their offspring and left us with the ominous task of coping with a coming tidal wave of elderly with not enough young, working persons to support them. It has crippled our churches, the source of teaching of essential wisdom, virtue and sense of purpose and it is draining us of national vitality as we have come to view children as an expense, a burden and even a commodity to be ordered from reproductive technologists or discarded if imperfect or simply unwanted. There has been a precipitous, on-going and dangerous decline of respect for life in Canada.
Pro-life groups are stretched beyond their limits attempting to address not only the now huge number of abortions but the many foreseen and unforeseen outgrowths of abortion that did not exist in 1969—euthanasia, assisted suicide, embryo experimentation, in vitro fertilization (which involves the destruction of embryos), cloning, the sale of baby body parts, genetic engineering, stem cell harvesting, the “morning-after pill”, the abortion pill RU-486, a very powerful international de-population movement (with Canada a world leader) and on and on.
We Must Learn From the Past
Some people say that all this negative information about Pierre Trudeau should not be brought up at this time, so soon after his death. Normally, following the death of most people, this would be correct. Unfortunately, the almost obscene amount of propaganda Canadians have had to endure these past several days cries out for balance. Trudeau’s death is being used to massively condition Canadians to accept even more of the same, failed, deadly policies. Jean Chretien is milking it for all he can as he prepares for his next election gamble.
We must know what happened in the past in order to deal with the present. Great dangers await us if we continue to be so easily led astray.