Trudeau the Parliamentarian

Today’s Canada is largely of Trudeau’s making, says Andrew Cohen (Ottawa Citizen, 28 Sept, 2010). That sounds about right.

We know what Trudeau did.

In the Omnibus Bill, a series of amendments to the Criminal Code that was introduced in December 1967 and given final assent in the spring of 1969, he “liberalized” abortion, contraception, divorce, and homosexuality. In the Official Languages Act, 1969, he made us in the eyes of the world, a bilingual country. In 1970, using the War Measures Act he crushed the murderous Front du liberation de Québec. In 1980 he intervened in Quebec’s referendum on sovereignty to keep Quebec in Canada.

Have I got it all? Not by half. He centralized national decision-making in the executive branch of government. And he left us with the Constitution Act, 1982, which contains notably, a constitutional amending formula and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Let’s think about the how. Trudeau remade the country as a member of parliament: Justice Minister and Prime Minister.

Never underestimate the power of legislators and legislatures, I say.

2 Responses to “Trudeau the Parliamentarian”

  1. 1 Chris October 4, 2010 at 7:40 am

    Dear Janet,

    Interesting post, but aren’t you ascribing too much weight to Trudeau as Parliamentarian as opposed to Trudeau as Prime Minister? Even those things that were done when Trudeau was not Prime Minister, how much of the “credit” can we give him as opposed to the actions and desires of his Prime Minister?

  2. 2 janetajzenstat October 4, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Thanks Chris. I could have been clearer. I was thinking in a general way about the changes wrought in this country during the Pearson and Trudeau years. It was all done through Parliament. Of course. How else?

    Contrast the scholars like Wil Waluchow, Common Law Theory of Judicial Review, who take it for granted tat the real action lies in the courts. Here’s a quotation from Waluchow:

    “Were I forced to bet on which group, judges or legislators, is more likely to stand up to the relevant political forces at play in deciding contentious issues that affect Charter rights, my money would be on the judges. Given factors (like life tenure) that to a degree insulate them from these pressures, judges will be better able to muster the courage to rule against powerful political and social forces that naturally incline legislators towards the easier, more popular route.”

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