03/19/2013 07:58 EDT

Canada's No To Iraq War: What Leaders Said In 2003 (PHOTOS)


Let’s go back.

Let’s go back to March of 2003, when two men who will be studied in history books stood — like so many Canadians — at opposite ends of a spectacularly divisive issue.

One on side: Jean Chrétien. A lion in winter, he was less than a year away from retirement.

On the other: Stephen Harper. At just 43, he lead the coalition of Reform MPs and former Progressive Conservatives known as the Canadian Alliance.

Just 18 months earlier, the attacks of 9/11 prompted Canada to join the war on terror in Afghanistan. By 2003, U.S. President George W. Bush was pushing a preemptive strike in Iraq without the approval of the United Nations.

A “coalition of the willing” was being forged. Canadians from coast to coast wondered if we would be a part of it.

On March 17, Chrétien finally gave an answer.

Click below to read what leaders were saying about Iraq in 2003.

Photo gallery What Leaders Said About Iraq In 2003 See Gallery

The Iraq decision was a defining moment for Chrétien and arguably what he will be most remembered for.

As for the man who stood across from him that fateful day? Of course, he would eventually win a majority with a united Conservative Party.

But not before admitting in the 2008 federal election that the war in Iraq was “absolutely an error.”