Pierre Elliot Trudeau's Federalism and the French Canadians


Published in 1968, Federalism and the French Canadians is an
ideological anthology featuring a series of essays written by
Pierre Elliot Trudeau during his time spent with the Federal
Liberal party of Canada. The emphasis of the book deals with the
problems and conflicts facing the country during the Duplessis
regime in Quebec. While Trudeau stresses his adamant convictions
on Anglophone/Francophone relations and struggles for equality in
a confederated land, he also elaborates on his own ideological
views pertaining to Federalism and Nationalism. The reader is
introduced to several essays that discuss Provincial legislature
and conflict (Quebec and the Constitutional Problem, A
Constitutional Declaration of Rights) while other compositions
deal with impending and contemporary Federal predicaments
(Federal Grants to Universities, The Practice and Theory of
Federalism, Separatist Counter-Revolutionaries). Throughout all
these documented personal accounts and critiques, the reader
learns that Trudeau is a sharp critic of contemporary Quebec
nationalism and that his prime political conviction (or thesis)
is sporadically reflected in each essay: Federalism is the only
possible system of government that breeds and sustains equality
in a multicultural country such as Canada.

Trudeau is fervent and stalwart in his opinions towards
Federalism and its ramifications on Canadian citizenry. Born and
raised in Quebec, he attended several prestigious institutions
that educated him about the political spectrum of the country.
After his time spent at the London School of Economics, Trudeau
returned to Quebec at a time when the province was experiencing
vast differences with its Federal overseer. The Union Nationale,
a religious nationalist movement rooted deep in the heart of
Quebec culture, had forced the Federal government to reconcile
and mediate with them in order to avoid civil disorder or unrest.
The Premier of Quebec at the time, Maurice Duplessis, found it
almost impossible to appease the needs of each diverse interest
group and faction rising within the province and ultimately
buckled underneath the increasing pressure. Many Francophones
believed that they were being discriminated and treated unfairly
due to the British North American Act which failed to recognize
the unique nature of the province in its list of provisions.
Trudeau, with the aid of several colleagues, fought the imminent
wave of social chaos in Quebec with anti-clerical and communist
visions he obtained while in his adolescent years. However, as
the nationalist movement gained momentum against the Provincial
government, Trudeau came to the startling realization that
Provincial autonomy would not solidify Quebec's future in the
country (he believed that separatism would soon follow) and
unless Duplessis could successfully negotiate (on the issue of a
constitution) with the rest of Canada, the prospect of self-
sovereignty for Quebec would transpire.

His first essay (Quebec and the Constitutional Problem)
explores the trials and tribulations which occurred between the
Provincial and Federal governments during the ensuing
constitutional problems in Canada. Trudeau candidly lambastes and
ridicules the Federal Government's inability to recognize the
economic and linguistic differences in Quebec. He defends the
province by stating that "The language provisions of the British
North American Act are very limited" and therefore believes that
they continue to divide the country and aid the nationalist
movement in Quebec. Using an informal, first person writing
approach, Trudeau makes it clear that his words are for
reactionaries, not revolutionaries who are looking to destroy
the political fabric of the country. However, Trudeau considers
possible alternatives and implications in the second essay (A
Constitutional Declaration of Rights) and offers possible
resolutions to the everlasting cultural dilemma plaguing both
parties involved. One of his arguments is that the Federal
government must take the initiative and begin the constitutional
sequence to modify and adapt to the growing needs of all the
provinces, not only Quebec. "One tends to forget that
constitutions must also be made by men and not by force of brutal
circumstance or blind disorder", was his response to the
perpetual ignorance of the Federalist leaders who stalled and
dodged on the issue of equality and compromise throughout the
country. At this point in the essay, Trudeau relied on his
central thesis for the book and used it to prove his application
of constitutional reform using the Federal government as the
catalyst. Trudeau had already formulated his visions of the
perfect constitution and how it would include "A Bill of Rights
that would guarantee the fundamental freedoms of the citizen from
intolerance, whether federal or provincial". Each and every one
of his proposals demonstrated innovative thought and pragmatic
resolve for a striving politician who believed in Democracy
before Ideology. The emphasis he places on equality and
individualism is a testimonial to his character and integrity as
a politician. The next essay (The Practice and Theory of
Federalism) is the opening composition for Trudeau's firm