It was my plan to tell you about the exciting news of a very special event, the very first German Pioneers Day on October 10, which was introduced and pushed through by Kitchener MP Mr. Wayne Wettlaufer. This hard won recognition of the German Canadian community’s contributions to this great nation for over 300 years takes on a special meaning with the death of the Rt. Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau. We are reminded that it was Trudeau who broke the stranglehold of a predominantly English/French mentality in the policy making of this country. He gave us the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and German-Canadians like Gerry Meinzer, founder of the National German Canadian Congress, had a hand in formulating it. Without this charter we might not have attained the freedom to express our heritage as broadly as we are used to nowadays. Without it efforts to become recognized as a valuable contributing group might have been much farther off.
We all have our memories of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, may they be of a very direct personal nature or obtained from the sidelines of the ranks of spectators and voters, but it is clear that he left his mark on all of us. Even occasional disagreement with some of his policies or the way he introduced them does not change the fact that we genuinely liked him. We admired his quick wit even when some of us were offended by it. No one could dispute his passion for this country and the people in it.
He was the statesman who put Canada on the world map as an equal partner on the political playing field. At a time when people in Europe still had nothing but a romantic notion about this country he was recognized as our Prime Minister by name, unlike the many before or after him, who did not leave such a broad impression on the public consciousness of other nations abroad. Suddenly Canada was a known entity, whereas before it was a part of North America in general. And these impressions were favourable. They gave Canada the stature it enjoys today.
His passion for this country and the people in it was expressed in his concept of a just society, where everyone regardless of background, race, colour, religion or sexual orientation could aspire to a higher calling. He proved that swimming against the stream, instead of drifting along like trained seals, is the way to go. He demonstrated that a democracy can remain one, even if strong measures have to be taken temporarily to keep control of an explosive situation. And amazingly, he always remained himself, did not turn into a carbon copy of old ideas as a politician.
His life is a rich canvas of diversity. We found him equally at home on the slick parquet floors of a high society ballroom or on the uneven ground of the national and international political arena. He recited, pirouetted, canoed, joked, jested, danced and persuaded us into the best times of our lives, awakening in us a confidence of greatness and self-assurance. He gave us more than just hope; he demonstrated an enthusiasm that was infectious. He continuously reminded us that it takes courage and perseverance to change something, and intelligence and the right measure of force to move mountains, may they be the real thing or ideological ones. He taught us that disagreeing with the status quo can be a good thing. And to this day and hopefully far into the future we will remember that it is important to have dreams and the courage and conviction to carry them forward always.
My personal recollections include two encounters with this great man. The first took place in the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, where I told him that I would not vote, even if I could, for a man, who came into office on the rose petals thousands of women had thrown on him. It was a memorable conversation in my book. Two years later, when I was doing some PR work for a big film distribution company I met him again in the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. I was most impressed when he not only remembered our previous meeting, but also could recall exactly what was said and who I was. My humble neighbourhood was abuzz for days after I was seen emerging that night from the limo he sent me home in while he continued to hold court in downtown Toronto. Needless to say that I watched him much more closely from that time on and changed my mind about voting for him if I could or would.
His legacy will remain alive in the annals of history and in many family recollections. Everyone we spoke to, regardless of political persuasion, expressed nothing but the highest respect for this great statesman.
His statement: "Our dreams for this beautiful country will never die!" should linger with us for a long time to come.