Dion reacts to uncomfortable facts about Trudeau
If anything has become a trend in Canadian politics recently, perhaps it’s Stephane Dion’s great love of criticizing anyone and anything Tory.
In this case, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who has apparently made some unwelcome comments about Pierre Trudeau.
“This is a man who questioned the Allies, and when the Jews were being sacrificed, and when the great extermination program was on, he was marching around Outremont on the other side of the issue,” Mulroney said in a recent interview.
Mulroney also suggested that Trudeau, his practical predecessor as Prime Minister (John Turner may have held the position, but was never elected to it), was morally unfit to govern because he withheld his anti-Semitism from his Jewish constituents.
"I'm sure many people will say because he wants to sell his book, ensuring that people will read a lot of cheap shots about a lot of people, in his one thousand, one hundred pages. Many people will say that, but I'm not here to comment about the book or the motives of Mr. Mulroney. I'm just here to say that Mr. Trudeau has been, indeed, an exceptional individual," Stephan Dion said.
Surely, many people will predictably rally behind Dion and the myth of Pierre Trudeau, but neither that fact, nor Dion’s comments, change the fact that was Mulroney has said is true.
Anyone who has so much as read the surprising Young Trudeau: Son of Quebec, Father of Canada by Max and Monique Nemni (surprising in that it examines Trudeau’s youthful flirtations with fascism despite slavishly trying to dismiss them), knows that the things Mulroney has alluded to are all true.
Trudeau strongly believed in many things that contradict the modern political mythology surrounding the man. He was a separatist. He was anti-Semitic. He sympathized with fascists, and imagined Quebec as something of a fascist French-Canadian sovereign state. He even had a bizarre blueprint for decentralized corporatism (two concepts that are as preclusive of one another as anything).
The book even alludes to an essay, written by Trudeau while still in school, in which he suggests that he would “return to Montreal sometime around the year 1976: the time is ripe to declare Quebec's independence.”
In all fairness, any similarities between the plot Trudeau hatched as a schoolboy and the 1970 October Crisis that he faced as Prime Minister should probably be considered merely ironic.
Apparently, Dion, like the Nemnis, believes that we should disregard these, and many other facts about Trudeau, and instead say only good things about him.
"I am not hear to argue about what happened in the '40s. It's not a good context, considering what Mr. Mulroney is trying to do," Dion said. "When Mr. Trudeau passed away, Mr. Mulroney said that Mr. Trudeau was an exceptional individual who served his country effectively and well. Mr. Mulroney should reconcile his views with what he said at that time."
Yet Dion may want to reconsider whether or not Mulroney’s comments, then as now, require any reconciliation with one another. The fact of the matter is that Trudeau was an exceptional individual. Trudeau did a passable job of governing Canada (although his narcissistic insistence that the constitution had to be patriated, even without Quebec’s support, has opened a constitutional jar of worms that may never be successfully closed), including successfully dealing with the FLQ uprising of 1970 (even if he did step on a few toes in order to do it).
Perhaps it’s Dion, like the Nemnis, who need to reconcile Trudeau’s youthful beliefs with their comical image of Trudeau as “the father of Canada”.
The fact is that the mythical Pierre Trudeau and the historical Pierre Trudeau are two very different individuals. When stripped away of all the rhetoric and partisan imaginings, Trudeau simply becomes yet another politician who, acting largely out of self-interest and civic disinterest, made empty promises that he never intended to keep – as an example, Trudeau meant his grand promises of “participatory democracy” as a promise to make access to information regarding the activities of Canada’s government more accessible – so long as one was a Liberal party member.
What Dion will simply have to accept is that the legacy of Pierre Trudeau is one that is currently in a state of flux. It’s being reevaluated by a considerable number of people, and the Liberals aren’t guaranteed to like what is left over once this process is complete.
It may be discomforting to Liberals to watch the myth of Pierre Trudeau transform before their very eyes, as it has been doing more and more since his death. But it’s a reality the Liberals will have to learn to live with.
Dion would be wiser to convince his party to stop living in the past, as it (and perhaps the country) has been, than to try and keep such myths alive by castigating Brian Mulroney.