By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 11:19 p.m. ET
MONTREAL (AP) -- Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a flamboyant and charismatic political giant who led his country through some of its most tumultuous events, died Thursday. He was 80.
Trudeau died of prostate cancer, said Roy Heenan, senior partner of the Montreal law firm Heenan Blaikie, where Trudeau worked.
During 16 years as prime minister, briefly interrupted by a 1979 election defeat, Trudeau seemed to personify North America's dynamic political and social changes, with a sophisticated, sometimes irreverent style that fascinated and captivated his country.
Trudeau won election to Parliament in 1965 from Montreal, and as justice minister in 1967, liberalized laws on abortion and homosexuality.* In 1968 he assumed the Liberal Party leadership, becoming Canada's 15th prime minister.
A Montreal native, Trudeau made French an official language with English, promoted the metric system, led the fight against Quebec separatists, and in what was his most profound legacy, enshrined the Charter of Rights in a new Canadian Constitution in 1982.
Despite his celebrity, the changes he inspired brought inevitable opposition. By the time he decided to resign in 1984, Trudeau's popularity had dissipated, leading to a decline in the Liberal Party and rise in the successive Conservative Party governments.
Trudeau was named Canada's newsmaker of the century in a 1999 Canadian Press-Broadcast News poll.
(text of excerpt from September 28, 1999 New York Times On The Web article)
Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company
*-FOR A BRIEF COLLECTION OF MOST REMEMBERED TRUDEAU QUOTES AND A FOOTNOTE ABOUT THIS PARTICULAR ACCOMPLISHMENT, TAKE YOUR NEXT FOOTSTEP HERE.