When PE Trudeau was a far right separatist

When PE Trudeau was a far-right separatist

Elected Liberal MP for Mount Royal in 1965, he had previously been a left-wing intellectual, highly critical of the party and its leader, Lester Pearson. After a meteoric rise (Trudeaumania), he succeeded him in 1968 as Liberal Prime Minister. But earlier in his life, young Trudeau was a far-right separatist who opposed the ideas that would become his leitmotif as Canada’s great leader.

This information about Pierre Elliott Trudeau comes from the biographies of his friends Max and Monique Nemni and John English, his official biographer. The English had full access to his personal writings, which were never published, nor did the Nemni, who were surprised by what they discovered there.

Information Service poster, Departments of National War Services, 1941 or 1942.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Public domain

Information Service poster, Departments of National War Services, 1941 or 1942.

The teenager was a devout Catholic

Young Trudeau accepted the Church’s strict morals and policies. The Church believed at the time that corporatist states like Franco’s Spain and Salazar’s Portugal were the model.

Like Prime Ministers Bennett and Mackenzie King, the young Trudeau held anti-Semitic views. He writes a satirical play in which a naïve French Canadian is manipulated by a cunning Jewish businessman.

He admired right-wing writers like Charles Maurras in France and Léon Degrelle in Belgium, whose nationalist and Catholic Rex movement developed into a fascist party collaborating with the German occupiers.

Young Trudeau took a positive view of Marshal Pétain’s government in Vichy. For him, England was responsible for the Second World War.

Provocative as ever, he was proud to ride his Harley-Davidson wearing a Prussian military helmet.

Poster by Jean Drapeau, candidate for the Bloc populaire canadien, 1944.

Photo provided by City of Montreal Archives, P100-5-1-D008-001

Poster by Jean Drapeau, candidate for the Bloc populaire canadien, 1944.

Trudeau’s mentor

A wealthy son, he studied at the prestigious Collège Brébeuf, where the Jesuit Rodolphe Dubé (pseudonym François Hertel) was his mentor. Charismatic, brilliant and often outrageous, François Hertel was at the heart of all debates about faith, politics and the fate of Quebec. He relied on French Canadian youth to build an independent Catholic “Laurentia”. He left the Society of Jesus in 1947.

In 1942, at the instigation of Hertel, at the age of 23, Pierre Trudeau became a member of a revolutionary underground group called the “LX” or “Hunter Brothers”, whose aim was to stage a coup d’etat that would lead to an independent, corporatist and Catholic Quebec. The group was ready to take up arms to create it and planned to blow up munitions factories, among other terrorist attacks.

During the federal by-election in Outremont in November 1942, Trudeau made a inflammatory speech, reported in Le Devoir, in which he supported the young Jean Drapeau, who was running under the banner of the Bloc populaire anti-conscriptionniste. He ends his speech by calling for the government’s “traitors” to be “skewered alive.” A member of the Outremont bourgeoisie himself, he urged his listeners to “eviscerate all the damned bourgeois of Outremont”. Flag is beaten nonetheless.

François Hertel, PE Trudeau's mentor.

Photo from the Académie des Lettres du Québec website

François Hertel, PE Trudeau’s mentor.

PE Trudeau and women

His biographer, John English, tells us that Trudeau, with the acquiescence of his RCMP guards, brought a number of women to sleep with him at 24 Sussex Drive and Harrington Lake. It seems that it was with women – first his mother, then everyone else – that he really revealed himself. That didn’t stop him, however, from treating her with pathetic duplicity at times. English writes that he proposed to Caroll Guérin while courting Margaret Sinclair. After their split, he did the same with Barbra Streisand.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau once said: “The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation”. However, his government’s secret police installed a microphone in the bedroom of separatist Louise Beaudoin.

The big turn

In 1944, Trudeau received a draft dispensation for enrollment at Harvard University. At this point his opinion began to change.

Speaking about separatism with the poet Gaston Miron in Paris in 1960, Trudeau urged him to be careful as he might lose all his rights as a citizen if Quebec became independent. Ten years later, Miron was among about 500 people who were never charged with a crime (other than pro-independence sympathies) imprisoned by Trudeau under the War Measures Act.