National Unity: 1968-2000, The Trudeau Years
French power, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Official Languages Act, federal civil service, French Canadians
Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a Quebec law professor and longtime opponent of special status for Quebec, entered federal politics in 1965 to promote French power in Ottawa. He argued that a bilingual, bicultural Canada could provide full scope for the aspirations of French Canadians without the need of new provincial powers. Trudeau succeeded Pearson as leader of the Liberals in 1968 and led his party to electoral triumph soon after; he held the prime minister’s post almost continuously from 1968 to 1984 and received massive support from Quebec voters even when they elected nationalists to govern the province.
Trudeau promoted French Canadians within the federal civil service and increased the spending of federal money in Quebec. In 1969 his government passed the Official Languages Act, which made Canada officially bilingual. The act required federal agencies to offer bilingual services coast to coast. Some English-speaking Canadians resented this assertion of French culture as much as they did Quebec’s political demands for greater provincial power.
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