Pierre Trudeau’s death at the age of 80 unleashed an outpouring of public emotion and grief that has not been seen in Canada since the death of the country’s founder, Sir John A. MacDonald. Dignitaries from all over the world, including close friends Jimmy Carter and Fidel Castro (who was greeted by a large crowd at Notre Dame Basilica shouting “Viva Fidel!”), attended the former Liberal prime minister’s funeral in Montreal. It was only fitting that Trudeau, the most destructive Canadian prime minister of the 20th century, should be acknowledged by fellow leftists whose policies and goals he did so much to advance. A man of immense intellectual talent, willpower, and panache, Trudeau ruled Canada for nearly 16 years, from 1968 until 1984. Throughout his long reign, he led a sweeping revolution that transformed the country politically, economically, and culturally.

A constitutional lawyer and the son of a millionaire, Trudeau was obsessed with Quebec separatism. Like all leftists, he despised romantic nationalism, and his raison d’être for entering politics in 1965 was to crush the burgeoning independence movement in Quebec. The irony, however, is that Trudeau’s vision of a bilingual, multicultural Canada based on a strong central government and ten equal provinces was deeply resented by most French Quebecers. During the 1970’s, separatist sentiment grew in Quebec, culminating in the election, in 1976, of the Parti Quebecois, led by Trudeau’s arch-nemesis, the folksy Rene Lévesque. The movement became a permanent fixture on the Canadian political landscape: Rather than slaying the separatist dragon, Trudeau only strengthened it.

Praised by many in the media for his “devotion to Canada,” Trudeau in fact despised his nation’s cultural and historic traditions. He hated the country’s Tory heritage, especially its bicultural and binational reality of an English Canada and a Franco-Quebec held together by a respect for the rule of law and links with the British crown. He sought to eradicate the old Canada through policies such as official bilingualism, multiculturalism, native collectivism, and the disastrous patriation of the Constitution in 1982.

Trudeau’s greatest mistake was supporting not only the new Constitution but the American-style Bill of Rights that came with it, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. By empowering Canada’s Supreme Court to decide on the constitutionality of legislation, Trudeau undermined the traditional supremacy of Parliament in making laws. He created a rights-based society that caters to every conceivable left-wing interest group: homosexuals, animal-rights zealots, proabortionists, peddlers of pornography, and advocates of euthanasia.

Trudeau also championed massive increases in government spending. He turned the country into a milk toast version of Sweden with anemic economic growth, crushing taxation, and a crippling national debt. He imposed wage and price controls; he implemented the National Energy Policy that discriminated against oil-producers in the West; and he supported nationalization of some key industries and resources. In short, his economic policies eroded Canada’s standard of living, which was once the envy of the world.

While his economic record was one of obvious failure, Trudeau had more success in altering the country’s social mores, liberalizing Canada’s abortion and sodomy laws. Trudeau also embodied the chic radicalism of the counterculture. He simultaneously scandalized and titillated ordinary Canadians by wearing sandals in the prime minister’s office, dating Hollywood stars such as Barbra Streisand and Margot Kidder, and — most famously —marrying Margaret Trudeau, 29 years his junior. Their short and tempestuous marriage fascinated the public, as the media reported stories of Trudeau’s infidelities and Margaret’s notorious escapades with the Rolling Stones. Even the heroin-addicted moral degenerate Keith Richards had higher standards, once claiming that he would never allow his wife to tour with the Rolling Stones.

Trudeau represented everything that was wrong with the 1960’s—its rampant hedonism, sexual permissiveness, self-righteousness, fiscal irresponsibility, and puerile humanitarianism. Sadly, the mass mourning generated by his death, and the adulation he continues to inspire among the Canadian public, reveals that, in many ways, he triumphed over the country’s better nature. He mesmerized the nation into loving him, while wreaking havoc on Canadian soil.