Jean Chrétien, at total Joseph-Jacques-Jean Chrétien, (born January 11, 1934, Shawinigan, Quebec, Canada), Canadian lawyer and Liberal Party politician, who served as prime minister of Canada from 1993 to 2003.
The 18th of 19 children of a working-class family, Chrétien studied law at Laval University and was called to the bar in Quebec in 1958. Long interested in politics, he was first elected to the House of Commons in 1963 and has been reelected thereafter through 1984. In the consecutive administrations of Lester B. Pearson and Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Chrétien became a parliamentary secretary to the prime minister in 1965, a minister of state in 1967, and minister of national revenue in 1968. He served as minister of Indian affairs and northern development from 1968 to 1974 and in 1977 became the first French Canadian to hold the post of minister of finance. Known as an incisive and shrewd administrator, he went on to serve as minister of justice and attorney general (1980–82), ministry of energy (1982–84), and deputy prime minister (1984).
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After dropping to John Turner at a contest to triumph, Trudeau, as part of the Liberal Party, Chrétien resigned his seat at the House of Commons in 1986. He was re-elected to Parliament in 1990 and took on the direction of the Liberals the same calendar year. Chrétien directed his party to a landslide victory over the governing Progressive Conservative Party in national elections on October 25, 1993, and became prime minister of Canada on November 4. In 1995 he weathered a major crisis as voters in Quebec, a mostly French-speaking state, narrowly rejected secession. Quebec’s freedom remained a central concern, although the motion had shrunk from the end of this 20th century. Chrétien’s government concentrated on reducing the budget deficit, and in 1998 it passed Canada’s first balanced budget since 1970.
Chrétien was reelected in 2000, the first Canadian prime minister since 1945 to win three successive majorities. His connection with the United States was occasionally stressed, underscored by his own refusal to commit Canadian troops to the U.S.-led war against Iraq in 2003. In social policy, he chased progressive reforms, drafting a law in 2003 that would recognize same-sex marriages. Chrétien retired as prime minister in December 2003. Back in 2009, Queen Elizabeth II gave him the Order of Merit.