Monday, March 2, 2015

Meeting The Prime Minister Of Canada

Personal Moments

Prime Minister Trudeau and Barbra Streisand at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 1970.
Photo Credit: Chuck Mitchell, G&M
Source: Globe & Mail

My friends and I met Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau in either 1973 or 1974; I now don’t remember precisely the date or the year, but it had to be during the hockey season, that is, between October and April.

But first some background information is necessary. We were teenage autograph seekers, fanatics I would say in the collection of autographs, notably of athletes and other sportsmen, but also of anyone famous, including movie stars and politicians. We were at he Sheraton Mont-Royal Hotel in downtown Montreal, and we were there then for only one purpose: to meet hockey players from the visiting team who stayed at this hotel, and to get their autographs and briefly chat with them as they milled around the lobby before heading by taxi to the Montreal Forum. (Both the hotel and the sports venue no longer exist.)

Our cohort consisted, at various times, of myself, Jack, Sheldon, Gady, Issie, and Benny. I do not recall who was with me when we met the prime minister of Canada, but we were all pretty excited. With good reason. The head of hotel security, with whom we had an uneasy relationship, since we considered the hotel our playground and we ran around it with impunity, took us aside and shared a secret with us: the prime minister of Canada was finishing a speech he was making at the hotel to some distinguished and important group, and was heading downstairs to the main lobby. We would have the chance to meet the prime minister personally, Canada’s most charismatic and intellectual political leader.

And true to his word, in a few minutes, the red carpet was rolled out, and in the middle strolled Prime Minister Trudeau, in between two RCMP officers in their red serge uniforms; the head of hotel security brought us forward to meet the prime minister of Canada. I chatted with him briefly and, of course, asked for his autograph. As did my friends. And then he left. We then returned to our “official” business of collecting autographs from hockey players.

I am still not sure why the head of hotel security had picked us to meet the prime minister of Canada, but it was a memorable moment in the lives of teenage sports fanatics.

In this video clip (CBC Television News; Date: Dec. 21, 1967) of a news conference in Ottawa, then Justice Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau [1919-2000] of the reigning Liberal Party of Canada, announced sweeping changes to Canadian society in an omnibus bill that liberalized many of the normal human desires that we now take for granted including sex, procreation and divorce.

The CBC writes:
"There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation." Those unforgettable words made famous by Pierre Trudeau in 1967 caused a tidal wave of controversy that rippled across the entire nation. Trudeau's Omnibus Bill brought issues like abortion, homosexuality and divorce law to the forefront for the first time, changing the political and social landscape in Canada forever.
Conservatives to this day view Prime Minister Trudeau with contempt for these measures and others, such as multiculturalism, patriating the Constitution (1982), bilingualism and other liberal values that made Canada more tolerant and more inclusive. Even so, it was precisely such measures that brought Canada into the modern age and made it a better, more open and more secular democratic society. It has moved Canada closer to the idea of “a just society.”

I have always admired Trudeau for having the courage of his convictions, even though I might not have always agreed with everything he said or did. I certainly admired his powerful intellect (his motto was “reason over passion”), his sense of humour and his sense of style. Another interesting note: I resided in the Mont-Royal riding in which Trudeau was my M.P.; when I turned 18, he always had my vote. Prime Minister Trudeau influenced my thinking (and that of my generation) in a very positive and profound way that no politician other than President John F. Kennedy had (reading his speeches post-facto). I am a better person for it.

Too many of today’s politicians take themselves too seriously, lacking both a true sense of self and a sense of destiny. Of history in the making. In my estimation, Trudeau was the best prime minister of the twentieth century. Academics in history, political science and international relations, in 2011, ranked Trudeau as the fifth-best prime minister in Canadian history. Canada was indeed fortunate to have such a man lead the nation.

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