Like Father, Like Son?
Two years ago, Justin Trudeau was asked which nation’s type of government he most admired besides Canada’s.
His answer: China’s.
“You know, there’s a level of admiration I actually have for China because their basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime,” he said. “In this world we’re competing with countries that have the capacity to react to big issues quickly and completely. We need to make sure that even though we have to compete with them, we can get things done completely” (emphasis added throughout).
According to Justin Trudeau, democracy is frustrating because it doesn’t allow prime ministers to do what they want. And now Justin Trudeau is the prime minister.
Trudeau’s statement gives important insight into how we can expect the second-youngest prime minister in Canadian history to rule. But there is also a far more important and insightful predictor that should not be overlooked.
Trudeau is not the first Canadian prime minister to heap praise on Communist China and its authoritarian leaders. A previous prime minister swung Canada far to the ideological left. He downplayed the importance of free enterprise and private property rights, and sought to implement his vision of a “just society.” He annihilated the role of Christianity in Canada, and he became famous for initiating the multicultural experiment that seeks to turn Canada into an ethnic representation of the world. By the time this man left office, he had taken a virtually debt-free country to the edge of bankruptcy.
This prime minister also invoked Canada’s War Measures Act and suspended the Canadian Bill of Rights during peacetime. He claimed the power of censorship and initiated search without warrant and arrest without trial.
He became Canada’s third-longest serving leader. And Canada’s only dictator.
This man was Justin’s father: Pierre Elliot Trudeau.
Almost 30 years ago, the elder Trudeau was asked his views on democracy and communism. He replied that under certain conditions, a one-party state would be the ideal government. “I wouldn’t be prepared to think I would be successful in arguing that for Canada at the present time,” he said. “But such times might come, who knows?” To say Pierre Elliot Trudeau admired communism would be an understatement.
A generation ago, the elder Trudeau radically transformed Canada. Now Canadians have elected his son.
As the Chinese say, “Tiger father begets tiger son.”
Fascinated With Fascism
You can trace the elder Trudeau’s fascination with the undemocratic back to his educational years. Trudeau attended the prestigious Jesuit Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf in Quebec. During this time, many young men educated at elite Jesuit schools in Quebec became ardent supporters of the clerically influenced dictatorships of the day. University activists admired role models like Francisco Franco in Spain, António de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal, and Marshal Philippe Pétain’s Nazi collaborators in France. In his senior year at the college, Trudeau edited the school newspaper, Brébeuf. He denounced Canada’s involvement in World War ii, railed against conscription, and encouraged students to disobey draft registration. Later, he said he opposed the war because, like most Quebec boys, he “was taught to keep away from imperialistic wars.”
Over the next several years he was a man of anti-democratic action. Trudeau joined an underground organization dedicated to overthrowing capitalism, and rioted in the streets with other young would-be revolutionaries. In 1942, young Pierre Trudeau gave a fiery speech in which he called on Canadians to rise up and overthrow the government.
Eventually, in order to avoid general conscription, Trudeau was forced to sign up for officer school. It is unclear how he escaped military duty, but he ultimately left officer school and secured permission to travel to the United States and attend Harvard to study political science and economics. In his entrance exam, he stated a burning desire to become a statesman (Trudeau Transformed: The Shaping of a Statesman 1944-1965).
Following the war’s end, Trudeau traveled to Europe where he attended the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris and the London School of Economics and Political Science—both hotbeds of political activism where students tried to fuse democracy with communism. While in Paris, he proposed a Harvard doctoral thesis on exploring potential areas of reconciliation between Catholicism and communism.
This fascination with communism, fascism, socialism and religion drove Trudeau to the far reaches of the political world.
Pierre Trudeau traveled to Ghana when Communist Kwame Nkrumah, who characterized himself as the African Lenin, seized control of the country. He also happened to be in Algeria when Communist Ahmed Ben Bella took over. Bella was awarded the prestigious Hero of the Soviet Union decoration for heroic feats in service to the Soviet state. In 1961, just prior to the Bay of Pigs invasion, the U.S. Coast Guard picked up Trudeau attempting to paddle to Cuba from Key West. Trudeau was deported home.
But in 1964, he made it to the Communist island, gaining an audience with Fidel Castro. The two later became close friends. At Trudeau’s funeral in 2000, a frail and ailing Fidel made an unprecedented trip to Canada to be an honorary pallbearer. Justin Trudeau’s mother recounted how Castro would get drool marks on his shirts while pacifying the younger Trudeau boys on his shoulder during the family’s visits to Cuba. A Canadian ambassador to Cuba said that Pierre Trudeau and Fidel Castro were fast friends and “intellectual soul mates.”
Pierre Trudeau had a penchant for studying Communist tactics up close and firsthand. He hated the wars of “Western imperialists,” but Communist wars were just fine.
Shortly after the end of World War ii, Trudeau visited Communist Yugoslavia. He was in the Middle East during the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948. Approximately a year later, as Communist forces swept through Beijing and Tianjin, and just months before the fall of Shanghai, Trudeau gained entrance to China (Chasing the Dragon in Shanghai: Canada’s Early Relations With China, 1858-1952). He would return again in 1960, this time to meet Mao and attend a “victory celebration” (Alan Stang, “How the Communists Took Control,” April 1971). Subsequently, Trudeau co-authored a book that praised Mao’s revolution for realizing that it had to depend on the poor people for success. Meanwhile, Mao had become one of the biggest mass murderers in history. During his revolution, 45 million people died.
In 1952, Trudeau was invited to speak at the notorious International Economic Conference in Moscow. In 1953, the United States banned him from entering the U.S., citing him as a Communist agent. But Trudeau’s fascination for all things Communist remained even as he began moving up the political ranks.
In 1968, Trudeau was elected prime minister of Canada in an election that focused more on the candidate’s good looks and trendy checkered suits than on the issues of the day. The media dubbed his sweep “Trudeaumania.” It applauded Trudeau’s “just society” rhetoric. Some analysts trace his victory to the momentum gained after arguing that the government has no business in the bedrooms of Canadians. After his election, homosexuality was decriminalized.
In 1970, Trudeau became one of the first Western leaders to recognize the Communist People’s Republic of China (to U.S. President Richard Nixon’s chagrin). In 1971, he traveled to the Soviet Union to participate in regime-sponsored propaganda activities.
A year earlier, Trudeau had infamously invoked the War Measures Act to combat terrorists in Quebec. He said it was the only way he could act quickly and decisively. He began by ordering the military into Quebec streets to help with policing duties. Broad powers were given to the police to search and arrest without warrant. Many innocent people—many of whom Trudeau knew personally—were jailed during this time. When a reporter asked how far he would go, he replied, “Just watch me.” Eventually, a deal was cut with some of the terrorists, and they were allowed to flee to Cuba. Trudeau wasn’t afraid of stretching the boundaries of the law.
In 1981, Trudeau nearly endorsed the Communist takeover of Poland. “If marshal law is a way to avoid civil war, and Soviet intervention, then I cannot say it is all bad,” he said just hours after the coup.
Perhaps Trudeau’s most lasting impact is how he shaped Canadians’ perception of the United States. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and much of the rest of the liberal press increasingly portrayed the United States as an evil empire that recklessly risked global war by antagonizing Russia. Americans, he said, were fighting wasteful, exploitive wars and undermining the sovereignty of nations—like Canada—that would not support its Cold War plans. Under Trudeau, Canada’s closest trading partner, a nation with virtually the same culture and beliefs, became an aggressor to be feared and resisted.
Trudeau the senior left a lasting legacy. And now, his 43-year-old son is kicking off Canada’s new Trudeau era.
In October, Canadians emphatically elected charismatic Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who promised Canada “sunny ways” and “change.” Of the 338 seats up for grabs, the Liberals won 184. The socialist New Democratic Party won 44. The left Bloc Quebecois won 10 seats, and the Greens 1. That left outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party with only 99.
It is a huge swing to the left.
And the Liberals won enough seats that they will not need a coalition to govern. They do not need the support of any of the other parties.
This has big implications for Canada. Trudeau’s party should be able to pass whatever legislation it wants, as long as it can stick together.
So, what do the Liberals want?
Consider the words and actions of the man they voted for. “Canadians from all across this great country sent a clear message tonight,” Trudeau told supporters following his victory: “It’s time for change in this country, my friends, real change.”
It is a message that recently also played well south of the border in two elections: dreams, hope and change.
Despite Trudeau’s father being one of the longest-serving, most famous Canadian politicians, Trudeau was a bit of a political outsider. He too attended a Jesuit school, but instead of spending his youth studying Marxist thinkers like Georges Sorel and Leon Trotsky, his teenage years were spent snowboarding, traveling, and later working toward becoming a substitute math and literature teacher.
It wasn’t until 2008 that he first ran and was elected as a member of Parliament. So, like U.S. President Barack Obama, who was a freshman senator when first elected president, Justin Trudeau rose rapidly to prominence.
During the election, Trudeau emphasized his flamboyant streak, something his father played successfully too. He famously took part in a televised celebrity boxing match, in which he convincingly defeated his opponent. He starred in a two-part miniseries about World War i. He was very open about his bad-boy past, and his illegal drug usage (he says he smoked marijuana during his youth and as a member of Parliament).
Other aspects of Trudeau’s background are also reminiscent of President Obama’s. Both came from broken families. Both came out of academia and graduated from prestigious universities. Both were teachers. Prior to entering politics, Trudeau became a successful activist. President Obama was a community organizer and activist. Trudeau focused on environmental issues, which President Obama has also embraced.
President Obama is seen as the most feminist president in U.S. history. Trudeau wants to be the most feminist prime minister in Canadian history. “I am a feminist. I’m proud to be a feminist,” he tweeted in the lead-up to his election.
Justin Trudeau is Canada’s Barack Obama in other ways too. Just as Hollywood supports President Obama, Trudeau’s name carries a kind of rock-star status in Canada. Reporters have pondered: Is Trudeau the first Western head of government to have a tattoo? Journalists focus on how good-looking the blue-eyed, “bushy haired” Trudeau is. Where President Obama mixes it up with the likes of Jay Z and Beyoncé, Trudeau has made appearances on various television programs. He also took part in the televised What a Girl Wants Gala, in which he did a somewhat pg-rated striptease to raise funds for medical research.
So where will Trudeau lead Canada? The same direction both his father and President Obama have led their nations.
Here is the thing: Justin Trudeau is a reflection of Canadians’ values. Canadians were already headed in the direction Trudeau epitomizes. If they didn’t agree with what he stands for, they wouldn’t have voted for him. As the saying goes, people get what they deserve, not necessarily what they want. How true that is in Canada—a democracy that is undoing itself, one Trudeau at a time.