The modern immigration program in Canada owes a great debt to Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
His policies of multiculturalism, bilingualism and civil liberty have enabled Canada to be a center of world immigration and increased the rights of Permanent Residents within the country.
Trudeau himself is descendent from immigrants himself and his family can trace their roots back to 17th century France, though his family was well established in Quebec by the time he was a youth.
Through his education and experience he became a very powerful mind in liberal politics in Canada by the 1960s and eventually became the Prime Minister.
During Trudeau’s tenure as a member of parliament he had anti-homosexuality laws repealed which would eventually allow Permanent Residents and citizens to sponsor same sex spouses to immigrate to Canada.
In the early 1970s, as Prime Minister, Trudeau enacted Canada’s policy of multiculturalism. It was the first time that any such policy came to be in any government. Its thrust was that Canada is a land composed of many different ethnicities and types of people and they are all entitled to maintaining that identity.
This has allowed increased acceptance of immigrants over the years.
Bilingualism was also a part of this movement and it established the equal status of different languages for official use throughout Canada. It is also why being able to speak either English or French is an immigration requirement.
Approximately ten years later when a new revision of the Canadian Constitution was enacted Trudeau ensured that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was included. Very similar to the United States’ Bill of Rights, the Charter ensures that everyone within Canada is allowed the same rights. Permanent Residents have access to these rights as well (although they cannot vote).
Pierre Trudeau remains an important and at times controversial cultural and political figure in Canada, though he died in 2000. His son, Justin Trudeau, is currently running for political leadership in his father’s party.