Trudeau, Pierre Elliott

Trudeau, Pierre Elliott (Joseph Philippe Pierre Ives Elliott Trudeau) tro͞odōˈ [key], 1919–2000, prime minister of Canada (1968–79, 1980–84), b. Montreal. He attended the Univ. of Montreal, Harvard, the École des Sciences Politiques in Paris, and the London School of Economics. A lawyer and law professor known for championing liberal causes, Trudeau was elected (1965) to the House of Commons as a Liberal and became (1967) concurrently minister of justice and attorney general in Lester Pearson's government. Trudeau succeeded Pearson as Liberal party leader and prime minister in 1968. A vigorous and even dashing young leader, he won a landslide victory in elections called shortly after he took office and became the focus of a popular enthusiasm that came to be called “Trudeaumania.”

Pursuing independence from U.S. influence, he recognized (1970) the People's Republic of China and promoted Canadian control of its own economy and culture. He also campaigned for world peace and nuclear disarmament. In 1970, after terrorist activities by the Front de Libération du Québec, he temporarily instituted martial law. Although the Liberal party lost its majority in parliament in the general elections of Oct., 1972, Trudeau remained in office, relying on the support of the small New Democratic party to give him a parliamentary majority. His government was defeated (May, 1974) on a motion of no confidence brought against the budget, but in the ensuing elections (July, 1974) Trudeau and the Liberals regained their parliamentary majority.

Briefly out of office (1979–80) after the Progressive Conservatives won the 1979 election, he returned to power in 1980. Defending his concept of a unified federalist nation against the forces of separatism, he successfully campaigned for the rejection of independence by Quebec voters in a referendum in his native province. That year he also proposed a new constitution for Canada, independent of the British Parliament, and on Apr. 17, 1982, Queen Elizabeth II signed the Constitution Act, 1982 (see Canada Act), which gave Canada complete independence. Sensitive to the linguistic preferences of his fellow French Canadians, he led Canada to become an officially bilingual nation in 1984 and was a consistent supporter of multiculturalism. Trudeau retired that same year, having played a pivotal role in the political development of Canada in the 20th cent. He was succeeded as prime minister and party leader by John Turner.

See his Conversation with Canadians (1972), Memoirs (1993), and Against the Current: Selected Writings 1939–1996, ed. by G. Pelletier (1997); biography by J. English (2 vol., 2006–9).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Canadian History: Biographies