Saturday, August 13, 2011

Otto Lang: Trudeau's respect for dignity of individual a sign of his spirituality

Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's respect for the dignity of the individual is considered the evidence for his spirituality by his former Minister of Justice, Otto Lang, according to a presentation by Lang, among others, at a two-day conference at St. Jerome's University at the University of Waterloo in May, 2003.
The papers and the discussion they provoked have been collected, annotated and published in a book entitled, The Hidden Pierre Elliot Trudeau, The Faith Behind the Politics edited by John English, Richard Gwyn and P. Whitney Lackenbauer.
Here are two examples, from Lang's experience, to support his thesis that Trudeau's deep respect for the dignity of the individual is evidence of his spirituality.
I saw it (also) in the cabinet room very early on. At the University of Saskatchewan, I had been used to the university council where, when someone said something that was verging on the stupid, the general approach was to move right on with the discussion, ignoring it completely. I was just newly in the cabinet room in Ottawa when a comment in a serious debate could have matched this description. True to form, the next minister immediately began to speak as thought that remark had not happened. But Pierre put up his hand and said, "Just a moment. I do not think we understood what was just said." And I thought, my God, he is going to unveil the remark in all its blessed stupidity. But instead he probed until he found the gem that was really the intention of the person who had made the comment. That was the credit he gave to the intention and dignity of the person who made the remark. I developed my own "one-liner" for generally purposes from that: "the stupider the thing you think you've heard, the more likely it is you've misunderstood." ...
I saw his respect to individual dignity in a most telling way one day as we left a huge meeting on Western development in Saskatoon. We were leaving with the usual crowd of RCMP around us; it was, after all, in the West an din some of his more difficult days. Suddenly Pierre Trudeau spotted a little old Aboriginal woman, and he just stepped through the group of RCMP (to their dismay) and spoke to her. He said a few words to her in Cree. Whether he did it so that he could have that communion with a person in that was I do not know, but he was paying all of his attention to her and in that moment tears came streaming down her face.
This is part of what I see as the basic spirituality of Pierre Trudeau: individual dignity in the context of pluralism. (pp.141-142)

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