From Academic Kids

The Right Honourable Joseph Jacques Jean Chrétien, PC (born January 11, 1934) was the twentieth Prime Minister of Canada, serving from November 4, 1993, to December 12, 2003.

The Rt Hon. Jean Chrétien
Missing image

Rank: 20th
Term of Office: November 3, 1993 -
December 12, 2003
Predecessor: Kim Campbell
Successor: Paul Martin
Date of Birth: January 11, 1934
Place of Birth: Shawinigan, Quebec
Spouse: Aline Chainé
Children two sons, one daughter
Profession: lawyer, politician
Political Party: Liberal

Early life

Born in Shawinigan, Quebec as the 18th of 19 children, Jean Chrétien (pronounced ) studied law at Laval University. Chrétien would later make light of his humble origins, calling himself the "little guy from Shawinigan". In his youth, he suffered an attack of Bell's palsy, leaving the left side of his face permanently paralyzed. Political opponents, like former Prime Minister Kim Campbell, used this affliction as a basis for political attacks, accusing Chrétien of both figuratively and literally "talking out of the side of his mouth". This tactic was liable to backfire when made insensitively, as it did for the Campbell-led Progressive Conservatives in a 1993 attack ad.

On September 10, 1957, he married Aline Chainé. They have two sons and one daughter: France, Hubert, and Michel. He was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons in the 1963 federal election. After re-election in the 1965 election, he served as parliamentary secretary - first to Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson (1965) and then to Minister of Finance Mitchell Sharp (1966). Pearson later appointed him junior finance minister. He was appointed Minister of National Revenue in 1968 by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

After the June 1968 election, he was appointed Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. In 1974, he was appointed President of the Treasury Board; and beginning in 1976, he served as Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce. In 1977, he was named Minister of Finance. In 1980, he was appointed Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and served as Minister of State for Social Development and Minister Responsible for constitutional negotiations, playing a significant role in the patriation of the Constitution of Canada. In 1982, Chrétien was appointed Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.

After Trudeau announced his retirement in early 1984 as Liberal Party leader and prime minister, Chrétien sought the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. He lost on the second ballot to John Turner at the leadership convention that June. Turner appointed him Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for External Affairs. Relations between the two were strained, and in 1986 Chrétien resigned his seat and left public life for a time. Now working in the private sector again, Chrétien sat on the boards of several corporations. These corporations included the Power Corporation of Canada subsidiary Consolidated Bathurst, the Toronto Dominion Bank, and the Brick Warehouse Corporation, among others.

After Turner's resignation as leader in 1989, Chrétien returned: he was elected Liberal Party leader at the June 1990 Liberal leadership convention in Calgary, Alberta, defeating Paul Martin on the first ballot. A by-election in the New Brunswick constituency of Beauséjour in December 1990 returned him to the House of Commons.

Prime minister

In the October 1993 election, Jean Chrétien became Prime Minister of Canada by leading his party to a majority victory, ousting Prime Minister Kim Campbell and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. He was re-elected in the 1997 and 2000 elections. During Chrétien's term as prime minister, no party emerged as a viable challenger to the supremacy of his Liberal party, in part due to vote-splitting between the Progressive Conservative and Reform/Alliance parties.

While Brian Mulroney, Joe Clark, and Pierre Trudeau had all been relative political outsiders prior to becoming prime minister, Chrétien had over 30 years of experience within the government. This experience gave him a masterful knowledge of the Canadian Parliamentary system, and allowed Chrétien to establish a very centralized government that, although highly efficient, was also lambasted by critics as being a "friendly dictatorship" and intolerant of internal dissent.

One of Chrétien's main focuses in office was preventing the separation of the province of Quebec, which was ruled by the separatist Parti Quebecois for nearly the Prime Minister's entire term. After the 1995 referendum very narrowly defeated a proposal on Quebec sovereignty, Chrétien's government passed what became known as the Clarity Act, which said that no Canadian government would acknowledge an independent Quebec nation unless a "clear majority" supported sovereignty in a referendum based on a clear question. The size of a "clear majority" was left unspecified, but Chrétien made it clear that such a majority would not be "50% plus one vote".

Chrétien's government also introduced a new and far-reaching Youth Criminal Justice Act, which replaced the old Young Offenders Act, and changed the way youths were prosecuted for crimes in Canada.

Missing image
Comedian Rick Mercer and then-Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chrétien at a Harvey's fast food restaurant

In 1997, Chrétien (left) was a guest star on This Hour Has 22 Minutes as former member Rick Mercer (right) took him to lunch at a Harvey's fast food restaurant.

Following the September 11 terrorist attacks upon the United States, the U.S. shut down North American airspace, and many Canadians opened up their homes to stranded travellers. (See Operation Yellow Ribbon.) In response to those attacks, Canadian forces joined with multinational forces that invaded Afghanistan to pursue al-Qaeda forces there.

Under Chrétien, Canada did not support the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq but was the first non-member of the US-led coalition to provide significant financial aid to the post-war reconstruction effort, relative to Canada's size. Chrétien's reasoning was that the war lacked UN Security Council sanction; while not a member of the Security Council, Canada nevertheless attempted to build a consensus for a resolution authorizing the use of force after a short (two to three month) extension to UN weapon inspections in Iraq. (Critics also noted that, while in opposition, he had also opposed the first US-led Gulf War.) Although criticism from right-wing opposition was vocal, the move proved popular with the Canadian public in general. In December of 2003, it emerged that Chrétien's government had prepared plans for Canada to send as many as 800 Canadian troops to Iraq if UN Security Council had authorizedit; however, a UN request for an increased deployment of Canadian peacekeepers to Afghanistan removed this option from the table. This led some of Chrétien's anti-war critics on the left to accuse the Prime Minister of never really being fully opposed to the war.

In October 2003, Chrétien, a strong supporter of the decriminalization of marijuana in Canada, raised eyebrows with comments concerning his plans to smoke marijuana after his retirement. "I don't know what is marijuana," he said. "Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal. I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand." This was ultimately shown to have been nothing more than a friendly joke between Chrétien and a Winnipeg Free Press reporter.

Chrétien also benefitted significantly from a divided and ineffective opposition during his term as Prime Minister, facing eight different leaders of the opposition, and was sometimes viewed by Canadians as remaining in power solely because of a lack of alternatives. However, he also had an undeniably strong gut instinct for reading the mood of the Canadian electorate, and he successfully used this skill to defuse most of the controversies his government faced.

Chrétien's government was re-elected twice, in the 1997 and 2000 federal elections. This has made him one of the few Canadian Prime Ministers to serve three back-to-back terms.


In August 2002, on the verge of being ousted as party leader by the supporters of ex-Finance Minister Paul Martin, Chrétien announced that he would not run for an additional term and would resign in February 2004.

Chrétien's final sitting in the House of Commons took place November 6, 2003, with many tributes, standing ovations, and even some hearty laughs at humorous stories told by the Prime Minister. He made an emotional farewell to the party on November 13 at the Liberal Convention. The following day his rival Martin was elected his successor. The two men lavished praise on one another, and Chrétien joined Martin onstage to congratulate him after his acceptance speech.

On December 12, 2003, Jean Chrétien officially resigned, formally handing power over to Paul Martin.

Almost a month after retiring, Mr. Chrétien joined the law firm of Heenan Blaikie on January 5, 2004, as counsel. The firm announced he would work out of their Ottawa, Ontario offices four days per week and make a weekly visit to the Montreal office.

On June 8, 2005 He received an honorary degree from McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario.


In general, Chrétien supported Pierre Trudeau's ideals of official bilingualism and multiculturalism, but his government oversaw the erosion of the welfare state established and built under William Lyon Mackenzie King, Louis St. Laurent, Lester Pearson and Trudeau. His government advocated neo-liberal (or right of centre) polices on a number of economic fronts, cutting transfer payments to the provinces and social programs, supporting globalization and free trade and implementing large personal and corporate tax cuts. In the late 1990s, he and then-Finance Minister Paul Martin balanced the Canadian budget for the first time in decades.

Chrétien was repeatedly attacked by both his opponents and supporters for failing to live up to certain election promises, such as eliminating the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. He also came under fire for delaying a military helicopter purchase. Some point to the "No" result of the 1995 Quebec referendum on separation as a political victory for Chrétien, while others interpret the extremely slim margin as a near-disaster for which Chrétien, as de facto leader of the "No" campaign, was responsible. In 2002, Chrétien promoted a plan to help Africa financially. It is not completely clear for what he will be most remembered.

One of the most pressing issues in Chrétien's final year in office was Canada's relationship with the United States. Chrétien had a close relationship with President Bill Clinton, after attacking Brian Mulroney for being too friendly with both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, but the fact that many of his cabinet ministers and aides had little respect for George W. Bush was highlighted in a few embarrassing off-the-cuff remarks that found their way into the media. Chrétien's lack of support for the Iraq war was likewise criticized as a damaging move for the historic Canadian-US military alliance, however Canada's response to the September 11, 2001 attacks with Operation Yellow Ribbon, and its participation in the Afghanistan invasion did draw the two countries closer together. He also considers Bush a good friend.

Though Chrétien failed to make significant moves on such matters while in office, decisions on health care, same-sex marriage, municipal issues, and drug laws will also be very important to his successor.

Very soon after his retirement, Chrétien's legacy was marred by the sponsorship scandal. Although implicated, no direct evidence has yet been found directly linking him to it, however many of his closest and longtime political allies were fired from government jobs by his successor Paul Martin. The scandal also put a question mark over Chrétien's preferred style of governance, which had been in question long before his retirement due to various scandals, particularly involving cabinet minister Alfonso Gagliano. Martin has moved to sharply distance himself from the Chrétien legacy, although this is also due to the at times bitter political rivalry between the two men. Many of Chrétien's most loyal ministers were not included in Martin's cabinet, and one, Sheila Copps, later lost the Liberal nomination in her riding.


Preceded by:
Kim Campbell
Prime Minister of Canada
Succeeded by:
Paul Martin
Preceded by:
Allan MacEachen
Deputy Prime Minister of Canada
Succeeded by:
Erik Nielsen
Preceded by:
Herb Gray
Liberal Leaders
Succeeded by:
Paul Martin
Preceded by:
Arthur Laing
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Succeeded by:
J. Judd Buchanan
Preceded by:
Herb Gray
Leader of the Opposition
Succeeded by:
Lucien Bouchard
Preceded by:
Denis Pronovost, PC
Member of Parliament for Saint-Maurice
Succeeded by:
federal riding abolished in 2003
Preceded by:
Fernand Robichaud, Liberal
Member of Parliament for Beauséjour
Succeeded by:
Fernand Robichaud, Liberal
Preceded by:
federal riding created in 1966
Member of Parliament for Saint-Maurice
Succeeded by:
Gilles Grondin, Liberal
Preceded by:
Gérard Lamy, Social Credit
Member of Parliament for Saint-Maurice—Laflèche
Succeeded by:
federal riding abolished in 1966

Template:End box

Template:CanPMde:Jean Chrétien fr:Jean Chrétien nl:Jean Chrétien no:Jean Chrétien pl:Jean Chrétien pt:Jean Chrétien sv:Jean Chrétien zh:让·克雷蒂安


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools