Who Was Pierre Trudeau? Biography, Career, Wife, Children, Death

Pierre Trudeau was Canada’s 15th Prime Minister, a position he held for approximately 16 years. Many of his initiatives arose from the radical beliefs of the 1960s. He was instrumental in preventing Quebec from seceding from the rest of Canada in 1980, and he championed a new Canadian constitution that dramatically expanded Canadians’ civil rights. His son, Justin Trudeau, succeeded him as Prime Minister of Canada, though not during Pierre’s lifetime. Trudeau passed away in 2000, just shy of his 81st birthday.

Early Life and Career

Pierre Elliott Trudeau was born on October 18, 1919, in Outremont, a posh Montreal neighborhood. Trudeau and his two siblings grew up speaking both French and English because their mother, Grace Elliott, was of French and Scottish origin. By the time he was a teenager, his family was fairly affluent, thanks to his father, a businessman and lawyer named Charles-Emile Trudeau, who had sold his gas station business to Imperial Oil a few years before.

Trudeau earned a law degree from the University of Montreal after graduating from the renowned Jesuit preparatory school Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf. He graduated from Harvard University with a master’s degree and also attended the London School of Economics and the Ecole des Sciences Politiques in Paris.

He was hired as a desk officer for the Privy Council shortly after graduating. From 1951 until 1961, he practiced law, focusing in labor and civil liberty disputes, which he would subsequently bring to the attention of the entire country.

He became a constitutional law professor at the University of Montreal in 1961. Leaders of the Liberal Party were looking for potential candidates four years later. Trudeau and two of his colleagues have been invited to run for party leadership positions. All three men were elected that year, and Trudeau was appointed Minister of Justice.

His colorful and charismatic demeanor blended nicely with the late 1960s’ shifting views and opinions. Within a year, he had altered divorce laws and liberalized abortion and g*y laws.

Prime Minister of Canada

When Canada’s then-prime minister, Lester B. Pearson, declared his intention to retire in 1967, Trudeau ran for Liberal Party leadership. His views were well received, and he was elected on April 6, 1968. His election as Prime Minister was aided by an unprecedented wave of youth participation. “Trudeaumania,” as it was dubbed, was the exhilaration caused by hundreds of youths who supported Trudeau. Trudeau, 48, was sworn in as Canada’s 15th prime minister just 20 days after winning party leadership.

Trudeau’s tenure in government began with a bang. He began lobbying for universal health care as soon as he was elected. He also sought to improve the efficiency of governmental caucus gatherings. He made waves for his personal life as well, dating Barbra Streisand before marrying the considerably younger Margaret Sinclair in 1971.

Trudeau had to lead his country through various hurdles in addition to his hip image. The 1970 October Crisis put his anti-terrorist attitude to the test. The situation began when a separatist group in Quebec kidnapped a Quebec official as well as a British trade commissioner. To deal with the issue, Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act, which gave the government the authority to arrest without a trial. On domestic issues, he advocated for the official establishment of bilingualism.

Trudeau served as the opposition leader for several months after losing his position in 1979. He returned to power the next year, and he became the primary opponent of the 1980 vote on Quebec sovereignty. By opposing this effort, he helped maintain Quebec a part of Canada.

Trudeau also aspired to officially and completely divorce Canada from the United Kingdom under Queen Elizabeth II. With the 1982 Constitution Act for Canada, he achieved this purpose. This historic act established new and comprehensive civil rights for all Canadians. Trudeau left politics in 1984, after serving as Prime Minister for 16 years.

Wife and Children

During his first years as Prime Minister, Trudeau was a well-known bachelor, dating celebrities like as Barbra Streisand and Margot Kidder. He eventually found love with Margaret Sinclair. In March 1971, he was 51 and she was 22 when they married in a surprise ceremony.

Trudeau and Margaret had three sons: Justin, Alexandre, known as “Sacha,” and Michel. Their relationship, however, did not last. The couple divorced in 1984 after splitting up in 1977 while Trudeau was still Prime Minister. Trudeau was given custody of their two sons.

Trudeau never remarried, but he did have a daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, with lawyer Deborah Coyne in 1991. Then, in 1998, Trudeau suffered a devastating loss. Michel, his youngest son, was killed in an avalanche.

Final Years and Death

In his retirement, Trudeau wrote Memoirs, a book in which he reflected on his life and career.

Trudeau died on September 28, 2000, at the age of 80, in Montreal. Although he had Parkinson’s disease, the official cause of death was prostate cancer.

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