POLITICS

Remembrance Day 2015: Justin Trudeau Is No War Hero, But He Played One On TV

11/02/2015 05:27 EST | Updated 11/11/2015 09:59 EST

Justin Trudeau worked many jobs before he led the Liberals to a majority government.

He was a teacher, a bouncer, a ski instructor, and a public speaker.

But he's less known for his work as an actor. And his single acting credit is worth revisiting as Remembrance Day approaches.

Trudeau starred in the 2007 CBC Television series "The Great War," which was produced to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele during the First World War.

In the film, Trudeau played Talbot Mercer Papineau, a Quebec-born soldier who died during the battle.

Papineau is remembered as a handsome, inspiring member of the Canadian Forces with gifts for writing and speaking, and who many believed was destined for public life, says The Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

Born in Montebello in 1883, he would become one of the first Canadians to receive a Rhodes scholarship, and he studied law at Oxford University.

After practicing law in Montreal, he enlisted with Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry as WWI began in 1914.

He would become known for a series of letters he wrote while in Europe, including one in 1916 that came in response to anti-war sentiment being espoused by his cousin Henri Bourassa, the founder of Quebec's Le Devoir newspaper.

In the letter, he forcefully and wittily attacked Bourassa's position.

Here are a few excerpts:

"Let us presume for the sake of argument that your attitude had also been adopted by the Government and people of Canada and that we had declared our intention to abstain from active participation in the war until Canada herself was actually attacked.

"What would have resulted? One of two things. Either the Allies would have been defeated or they would not have been defeated. In the former case Canada would have been called upon to either surrender unconditionally to German domination or to have attempted a resistance against German arms.

"At this moment, as I write, French and English-Canadians are fighting and dying side by side. Is their sacrifice to go for nothing or will it not cement a foundation for a true Canadian nation, a Canadian nation independent in thought, independent in action, independent even in its political organisation — but in spirit united for high international and humane purposes to the two Motherlands of England and France?"

The letter was later printed in the London Times with the headline, "The soul of Canada."

Papineau was killed by a shell at Passchendaele in August 1917, having attained the rank of major.

In playing the role, Trudeau said, "Talbot Papineau is an extension of a lot of things I stand for and believe in," Canwest News Service reported in 2006.

Trudeau added, "French and English Canadians worked side by side to shape the world. They stood up for what was right."

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