Pierre Elliott Trudeau and How He Shaped the Canadian Identity

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Sophie Castel

Ms. Loftus

CHC 2D1

01/3/2010

Pierre Elliott Trudeau and How He Shaped the Canadian Identity

Governing from 1968 to 1984, Pierre Elliott Trudeau was one of the most

significant Prime Ministers of Canada. In relation to human rights, Trudeau wanted every

Canadian to be treated as an equal. Culturally, Trudeau wanted to celebrate and unite the

country’s differing beliefs. In terms of foreign affairs, he pursued an independent path in

international relations. Pierre Trudeau worked toward making a harmonious,

peacekeeping, united Canada, while still valuing independent cultures and beliefs.

Trudeau believed that every Canadian, regardless of belief, culture, race, or sexual

orientation, should be treated as an equal. To achieve this goal, Trudeau first liberalized

laws on divorce and abortion, and decriminalized homosexuality (The Canadian

Challenge, 246). To follow up, he established the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a

political document that states and protects the rights of individuals living in Canada. This

document was designed to unify Canadians by using a set of principals by which

Canadians were supposed to abide. For example, “Every individual is equal before and

under the law...” (Department of Justice). In addition to establishing the Charter of

Rights and Freedoms, Trudeau gradually equalized incomes to achieve his vision of a

“Just Society”, where every all Canadians had equal opportunities (The Prime Ministers

of Canada). In response to Quebec wanting its own distinct society, Trudeau created the

Official Languages Act, which allowed the Québecois and the English-speaking

Canadians to live harmoniously together in the same country. This was because French

and English became the national languages, and the Québecois felt incorporated into the

Canadian culture. Trudeau wanted every Canadian to be treated as an equal, and to

accomplish his ambition he valued each individual’s beliefs and cultures.

Trudeau respected each individual culture in Canada and wanted to make each

culture feel affiliated with the rest of Canada. First, to achieve his goals of having a “Just

Society” in 1969, Trudeau introduced the Official Languages Act (The Canadian

Challenge, 248). This document put into place a set of rules that demanded the French

Language to be incorporated in Canadian Society as a whole. French became an official

language as well as English. Every sign and product had to be bilingual. This was to

make the French feel connected to the rest of English-speaking Canada. Trudeau still

wanted every culture to feel protected, and he himself stated, “For although there are two

official languages, there is no official culture, nor does any ethnic group take precedence

over any other.” (The History of Canada Online). By establishing this act, Trudeau also

showed his federalist leanings to the separatist movement in Quebec because he wanted

to demonstrate that all Canadians, regardless of race, sexual orientation, culture, belief, or

dialect could prosper harmoniously together in one country (Shipton, 22).

As well as solving problems on home soil in Quebec, Trudeau protected the

Canadian economy and also attempted to promote peace and solve disputes between

other countries. First to prevent foreign influence on the Canadian economy, he set up

the Foreign Investment Review Agency in 1973 to ensure that foreign investment in

Canadian businesses was favourable to the Canadian economy (The Canadian

Encyclopedia). To do so, this agency screened foreign-owned businesses set up in

Canada, and advised the government on what action should be taken upon them. As well

as protecting Canada’s economy, Trudeau visited Communist Cuba and made friends

with politician Fidel Castro to create trade agreements (Shipton, 33). He did this despite

the...
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