Monday, December 10, 2007

The Champions

In relation to my order for René Lévesque's memoirs, I got thinking about a series I remember from my high school days, produced by the NFB and CBC (and broadcast by the latter) in the mid-80s. The series was collectively titled The Champions, and chronicles the parallel rises of René Lévesque and Pierre Trudeau and their clashes in the 70s and 80s. I found them in the catalog of the Toronto Public Library, so I now have them on request. It's been years, probably since the early 90s, since I've seen the series, running about three and a half hours, and I'm really looking forward to watching it again.

Part one is called Unlikely Warriors, and tells the story of these two men up to 1967, when Lévesque, who'd been a provincial minister in the Quebec Lesage government, split to form the Parti Québecois, and when Trudeau joined the federal Liberal cabinet under Mike Pearson.

Part two is called Trappings of Power, and tells the story of Trudeau's early years as prime minister (including the October Crisis), and Lévesque's rise to premier in Quebec, and the lead-up to the referendum. Since these first two parts were completed in 1978, they leave the question of result of the 1980 referendum hanging. I can barely remember those times, but I do recall the gloom of those days, constitutionally. Not the best time ever to be Canadian.

Part three, The Final Battle, was completed in 1986, in the wake of each of these men leaving power. It tells the story of the referendum struggle and the subsequent patriation of the Constitution from Britain, something that still causes us headaches today. What I recall from this part is the poignant footage accompanying Trudeau's "walk in the snow" at the end of February, 1984, the night before he announced his resignation from office.

Since the broadcast of this series, each man has passed on. Their legacy remains and affects our lives to this day, and far into the future. I would strongly recommend this series to anyone who wants a better understanding of the constitutional eggshells upon which we tread so very lightly in this ongoing experiment in tolerance and cohabitability we call Canada.

No comments: