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April 27, 2004 
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  • Trudeau's sons dedicate peace studies centre

    Justin, right, and Alexandre Trudeau smile during a ceremony to rename a university centre on peace studies after their late father. (CP /Aaron Harris)

    TORONTO (CP) - The world is an "ugly place" rife with violence and human misery, but Canadians have the power to change that, Justin and Alexandre Trudeau said Tuesday during a ceremony to rename a university centre after their late father.

    The sons of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau helped unveil the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto - an important first step, they said, on the path to global peace. "I don't think it's overstating the case that the world has become a very ugly place these days," Justin Trudeau, 32, told the crowd brimming with scholars and dignitaries.

    "This new century needs to be one of dialogue, understanding and peace."

    The former teacher, who's now focusing much of his time promoting the Katimavik youth volunteer program, said empowering "young minds" will help solve raging conflicts in a world thirsting for stability.

    "We are truly at a pivotal point in the history of humanity. We are at a place where what we do or don't do this century will simply determine our future."

    His brother Alexandre Trudeau, 30, a documentary filmmaker, acknowledged that Canadians are lucky to "live in a country where there is peace, justice and tolerance while the world is on fire."

    These Canadian values must be championed abroad, he added, noting his father's idealism.

    "We struggle to understand what went on now more than ever, because things seem to be getting worse and worse."

    The brothers expressed gratitude to the university for renaming the centre after their father, who was lauded by former Ontario premier Bob Rae as "a great prime minister and a great Canadian."

    "All of us who have been in public life over the last 50 years have been profoundly affected by his example," said Rae, chairman of the centre's advisory board.

    The centre promotes research on the root causes of mass violence - including wars, ethnic strife, terrorism and genocide - and ways to lessen its occurrence.

    The ceremony also launched a $4.3-million campaign to raise funds for visiting scholars, scholarships and bursaries, mentorship programs and an annual lecture series. The money will also refurbish the centre's study space, seminar rooms and a resource centre dedicated to Trudeau's speeches and letters on foreign affairs, justice and public policy.

    Pierre Trudeau, who was prime minister from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984, died in September 2000.

    During his life he witnessed firsthand the effects of global conflict, travelling to Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

    He later wrote in his memoirs: "The route that I had chosen was strewn with the obstacles of the conflicts of that time. It was incredible."

    For professor Thomas Homer-Dixon, director of the centre, the former prime minister emulated the values he believes students and faculty strive to reflect.

    "Trudeau symbolizes ideals we encourage our students to achieve - pursuit of a just society tempered by intellect and compassion."

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