September 29, 2000 (36th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Alexa McDonough

New Democratic Party

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, today, I join with millions of Canadians in mourning the passing of Pierre Elliott Trudeau and in honouring the life of this remarkable, but complex man. A public personage, but a private man, his life and his work transformed a generation and fashioned the future of an entire country.
Across Canada, Pierre Elliott Trudeau's last illness and his death prompted an outpouring of memories and reflections of an era marked by vigorous debate of ideas.
His enthusiasm, his vision, his unique sense of style and flair and his chutzpah made him ideally suited to be the first Prime Minister of the television generation. He represented a time when many of us in the House of Commons came of age, a time when we began our involvement in public life. That was one of Pierre Trudeau's gifts to us. Whatever part of the political spectrum we came from, he challenged us. He galvanized us. He forced us to examine our beliefs and to act on those beliefs.
Pierre Trudeau showed us that political life could combine intellectual discipline and the passionate pursuit of justice.
He firmly believed in a strong, active and proud federal government. He modernized the public service. He proved that a career in the public sector could be honourable and respectable.
He strengthened Canada as a multicultural and bilingual country. He promoted cultural diversity and its richness.
Pierre Trudeau's international work, particularly in slowing down the nuclear arms race, earned him the Albert Einstein Peace Prize.
He shared with us a turbulent time in history, particularly Canada's history, and he was there through some of our best times and some of our worst times.
For 16 years, he was Prime Minister. We loved him or we did not, but we always admired him. Today and tomorrow there will be vigorous debate over his greatest legacy. Was it the charter of rights and freedoms? Was it the War Measures Act? Was it his devoted work for the country? Was it the patriation of the constitution? Or, was it his efforts to create a just society during the years he headed a minority government? History and time alone will decide.
Even in death, Pierre Trudeau sparked lively discussions of his ideas, and he would have loved that. Only time will determine Pierre Trudeau's final place in history, but in the hearts of people across this country he already has his place as a proud and passionate Canadian.
The images will stay with us always: the brilliant and fiercely competitive debater; a statesman and showman, pirouetting in front of 10 Downing Street; a sportsman, paddling serenely down a river; or, as the very public parent romping with his young sons whom he loved so passionately, in pictures we recalled in tragedy years later.
Today as we mourn his loss our thoughts are with his beloved sons and with his family and friends.
Pierre Trudeau loved poetry. These lines by another Montrealer, Irving Layton, sum up the intensity and the joy with which he lived his life.
They dance best who dance with desire Who, lifting feet of fire from fire, Weave before they lie down A red carpet for the sun.

Subtopic:   The Late Right Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau
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