Justin Trudeau: Restoring and Enhancing Canada’s Multicultural Identity
Justin Trudeau was born on December 25, 1971. Trudeau spent his childhood years travelling around the world with his father and accompanying him to work at the Parliament Buildings. Margaret Trudeau described her son as a “cheerful, bright, manically energetic little boy”, and picture after picture showed the
Trudeau family enjoying time outdoors together. However, behind the scenes, Trudeau’s early childhood also included moments of vivid pain and confusion. Trudeau’s parents divorced, and in interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Trudeau described that this experience left him with “a diminished sense of self-worth”. After his father retired from politics, Trudeau and his two younger brothers relocated to Montreal. Here he attended Jean-de-Brebeuf, the same Jesuit Catholic school that his own father had been a student of in his youth.
In 1998, Trudeau’s youngest brother, Michel, died in an avalanche at Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, at the age of 23. Although this was a very painful moment in Justin’s life, he chooses to fixate on the adventurous life his brother lived, rather than his tragic end. Shortly after Michel’s funeral, Trudeau remarked that “I remember [Michel] with a smile on his face and a dangerous, mischievous glint in his eye that meant anything could happen, and probably would”. In 2005, Trudeau married Sophie Grégoire, who had been a childhood friend of Michel and had spent time with the Trudeau family as a young girl. The couple have three young children: Ella-Grace, Xavier, and Hadrian, and continue to enjoy a very happy and fulfilling marriage.
Justin Trudeau’s Accomplishments Before Entering Politics
A child of politics, Justin Trudeau was always destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. However, this early exposure spawned a rebellion against expectations, which motivated Justin to try and help the world in a different way. After graduating from McGill University in 1994 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Literature, Trudeau traveled the world with a group of close-knit friends. Seeing the influence that education played on society and the need for more individuals who could positively promote learning, Trudeau decided to pursue teaching. He earned a degree in education at the University of British Columbia. So, by 1988, our current prime minister was twenty-six years old and had two undergraduate degrees which would both provide him with useful skills and background knowledge.
After officially entering the work force in 1999, Justin took on a three-year teaching position at Vancouver’s West Point Grey Academy and Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School. Until 2002, Trudeau taught the subjects drama, French, English, social studies and mathematics. During this term as a well-rounded teacher, Justin developed a love of mathematics and decided to return to Montreal to begin settling down. While there, he began an engineering degree at École Polytechnique, but realized engineering was not for him in 2004. A year before this decision, Justin was asked to help host the 2003 Starlight Children’s Foundation gala. While this was already a huge honor, it was even more of a special experience for Justin because he also met his future wife who co-hosted the event with him. From 2002 to 2006, Justin chaired the Katimavik youth volunteer service program, which his father had started. During the last year of his chairing, he was recruited to chair the Liberal Task Force on Youth Renewal. This marked his first dip into politics. However before officially beginning his outstanding political career, Justin starred in the CBC TV movie The Great War in 2007. A seemingly dramatic turn from Parliament, this experience actually allowed Justin to further develop his passion for politics as he played real-life Quebec First World War hero Talbot Papineau, grandson of Joseph Papineau, whose name bears the riding where he will later run.
Justin Trudeau’s Accomplishments as a Member of Parliament
April 2007 marked the official beginning of Trudeau’s political career, as he secured the nomination for the historically Liberal riding of Papineau. In 2008, Trudeau was elected, defeating Vivian Barbot of the Bloc Québécois incumbent by 1,189 votes. After winning his very first election, Trudeau entered the parliament as a member of the Official Opposition, another similarity he shares with his father.
Trudeau did not stop there. In 2009, he chaired the Liberal Party’s National Convention in Vancouver, and was appointed as the party’s Critic for Multiculturalism and Youth. In September of the same year, he received the post of Critic for Youth, Citizenship and Immigration. In May 2011, Justin Trudeau again won his seat in Papineau. However, he never lost his altruistic nature and even stripped down to his undershirt in freezing November air while at a charity event for the Canadian Liver Foundation.
The chance of a lifetime came in October 2012 with the resignation of the Michael Igniatieff, who was the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Trudeau immediately launched his leadership bid and on April 14th, 2013 he successfully became the leader of the Liberal Party with 80.1% of 30,800 votes. On October 19th, 2015, Trudeau led the Liberal Party to victory in the federal election, after one of the longest campaigns in Canadian history. The Liberals won 39.5% of the popular vote (184 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons) and experienced the highest seat gain for a single party since Confederation. With such an impressive background, Prime Minister Trudeau is certainly qualified to be the leader of our developing and multicultural country. Displaying many praiseworthy qualities already, there is no doubt that Justin Trudeau will go down in history as one of the great leaders of Canada.
Multiculturalism and Human Rights
What is Multiculturalism?
Canada has always been a richly diverse nation. Even before the initial arrival of Europeans within the sixteenth and seventeenth century, there was a vast variety of Aboriginal groups, languages, and cultures inhabiting the landmass that we now know as Canada. While it is difficult to gauge the level of pre-contact diversity, the 2011 Canadian Census revealed that there are sixty Aboriginal languages spoken in Canada, as well as sixty-five ethnic groups. This gives us a window into just how diverse Canada must have been prior to European settlement. Diversity continues to flourish today. 20.6% of Canadians are foreign-born, and over 200 different nationalities have been represented in Canadian surveys.
Canada’s diversity was historically viewed as problematic. Various Canadian federal governments saw Britishness as the ideal, and people whose practices deviated too much from British culture were expected to assimilate. Indigenous people suffered particularly great hardships due to the widespread notion that all Canadians should act and live in the same Euro-Christian ways. Today, the government’s official stance is that diversity should be celebrated and multiculturalism should be promoted.
Multiculturalism is “the idea that Canadians regardless of race, ethnicity, language or religion are all equal”. It has been established as an important part of Canadian identity since 1971, when the first official government policy regarding multiculturalism was released. In 1982, multiculturalism was enshrined into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the importance of this ideology was again re-affirmed in the 1988 Multiculturalism Act.
Despite the fact that multiculturalism has been prevalent in Canadian politics since for the last five decades, many Canadian citizens still do not support multiculturalism as a vision for the nation. An Angus Reid poll conducted in 2011 showed that over half of surveyed Canadians feel that Canada should be a “melting pot”, meaning that all new immigrant cultures coming to the country should “melt” into one homogenous Euro-Canadian culture. This is a sentiment that is directly against multiculturalism, which is an ideology that fundamentally supports the importance of all cultures that encompass Canadian life. As the idea of multiculturalism continues to face resistance today, it is important for Canada to have a leader that is prepared to endorse multiculturalism in real, pro-active, and genuine ways. Canada’s newest Prime Minister may just be that leader.
Trudeau has eloquently spoken about the importance of multiculturalism on many occasions. Speaking at the Davos World Economic Forum, Justin Trudeau stated that diversity was an economic advantage for Canada that would help the country to develop technologically. “Diversity isn’t just sound social policy”, he declared. “Diversity is the engine of invention. It generates creativity that energizes the world”. He explicitly rejected that idea that diversity can lead to conflict and division, instead conveying that diversity should be embraced, rather than feared. To espouse the value of diversity so articulately on an international stage is a testament to Trudeau’s commitment to supporting multiculturalism. In his Canada Day address, Justin Trudeau again praised multiculturalism and looked back to Canada’s diverse historical roots. He stated that “From the outset, Canada was formed not in spite of differences, but because of them. Thanks to the hard work and understanding between many cultural and religious communities, Canada is the diverse, inclusive, and compassionate country that we are fortunate to call home today.”
Trudeau proved his devotion to multiculturalism through unveiling a federal cabinet which, according to his own words, “looked like Canada”. Not only was the cabinet equally balanced between the two genders, but it also contained a variety of minorities including Sikhs, Aboriginals, a man with a physical disability, and the first ever Muslim federal minister. This is a far cry from Stephen Harper’s first cabinet, which included only two visible minorities and did not even approach the diversity of Canada’s population.
In July, Justin Trudeau attended the Toronto Pride Parade. This was the first time that a sitting Prime Minister has ever recognized Canada’s sexual and gender diversity by attending a pride event. Moreover, Trudeau did not just quickly stop by the parade in order to score political points. Instead, he joined in with the festivities, and was seen marching and singing along with the participants. In the photo below, Trudeau demonstrates his genuine enthusiasm and engagement, as he fully immerses himself into the spirit of the Pride Parade.
Trudeau’s Future Plans for Supporting Multiculturalism
Supporting Canadian Bilingualism
Canada’s rich tradition of bilingualism sets it aside from many unilingual countries. In Trudeau’s election platform, he pledged to support this important element of Canadian identity through developing strategies to support French and English linguistic minorities and ensuring that all federal services are provided in both of the official languages, in accordance with the Official Languages Act. Trudeau also pledged to enact a free online service that will teach French and/or English to Canadians looking to acquire a second language. This initiative would support immigrants in integrating into Canadian society and finding economic opportunities, and would also benefit lifelong Canadians who wish to learn another one of Canada’s official languages.
Supporting Trans Rights
Prior to becoming Prime Minister of Canada, Trudeau pledged to ensure that “trans* rights are recognized as human rights and fully protected” under Canadian law. In May 2016, the Liberal Party of Canada introduced Bill C-16, which would illegalize discrimination on the basis of gender orientation, thus fulfilling Trudeau’s campaign promise.
Supporting Sexual Diversity-Ending the Blood Ban for Homosexual Men
Currently, Canadian men are barred from donating blood if they have had sexual intercourse with another man within the last five years. In their campaign platform, the Liberals recorded that “this policy ignores scientific evidence and must end”. Currently, the promise to completely end the ban has not been adhered to. However, in June 2016, Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec announced that the deferral period would be shortened to one year, so there is still obvious progress being made in terms of ensuring that all segments of Canada’s diverse society are able to give blood.
Trudeau’s Support of Indigenous Rights
Part of promoting Canadian multiculturalism is respecting the rights of the very first Canadians. In this regard, Trudeau has already gone above and beyond the standard set by previous leaders.
Policy Resolution 61
In Policy Resolution 61, the Liberal Party of Canada promised to “introduce an Educational Program for all Canadians, through media or other means to provide all Canadians with an understanding of the history and background leading to the issues currently confronting Aboriginal Peoples and Canadians”. Presently, Trudeau’s government is in the process of investing $300 million towards this initiative. The Liberals also promised to accelerate and improve land claim procedures in Canada and ensure that First Nations are included in discussions about natural resources. These are important policies as they demonstrate a desire to respect the rights that Indigenous people still hold over Canadian land.
Policy Resolution 133-Improving the Quality of Aboriginal Lives
Today, Aboriginal Canadians face immensely worse living conditions and much higher rates of suicide, addiction, and abuse, when compared to their non-Aboriginal counterparts. The Liberal Party of Canada pledged to solve these issues through settling land claims in a timely manner, reinstating programs designed to promote Aboriginal languages, and implementing the provisions and recommendations of the Kelowna Accord, the Royal Commission on Indigenous Peoples, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Kelowna Accord was a federal agreement to invest $5 million in areas such as Aboriginal housing, education, and health care in order to improve lives of Aboriginals Canadians. If the Liberal government is able to adhere to these policies, there will indefinitely be rich benefits for thousands of Aboriginals.
Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women
Every year, nearly 1200 Aboriginal women and girls go missing. In their platform, the Liberal government promised to launch a national public inquiry that would be devoted towards handling current cases and preventing future ones from occurring. In August 2016, an inquiry was indeed launched after a planning period that started shortly after Trudeau’s election. The crucial project will take at least two years and the Trudeau government plans to invest 40 million dollars. It is admirable that Trudeau has taken this crucial step in addressing one of the gravest issues facing Aboriginal communities across Canada.
Headdress Ceremony in Calgary
In March 2016, Justin Trudeau met up with officials from the Tsuut’ina nation and was given a headdress as part of an authentic Aboriginal ceremony. He also received the honorary name “Gumistiyi”, which means “The One Who Keeps Trying”. After the ceremony took place, elder Alex Crowchild reflected that, “We put everything into his (Trudeau’s) hands and he has to prove to us he is going to help us achieve the needs of the First Nations. He still has to prove himself, but he’s made a commitment. We just have to give him time.”
When talking about previous leadership regimes in Canada, Roy Whitney-Onespot, the Tsuut’ina Chief, noted that these regimes had “failed on a scale so [unimaginably] huge, failed at so many levels, that solutions became fiscal and policy obstacles that no political will seemed able to overcome. As a result, for a century, progress on the ‘Indian problem’ was deemed impossible, so it was ignored and it was swept under the rug of national consciousness. But there is always hope”. Hope is a consistent theme amongst many of Justin Trudeau’s policies and plans, as reflected in the speech that he gave on the night of the election. “Sunny ways, my friends, sunny ways”, Trudeau remarked just hours after leading his party to victory. “This is what positive politics can do. This is what a causative, hopeful—a hopeful vision and a platform and a team together can make happen. Canadians—Canadians from all across this great country sent a clear message tonight. It’s time for a change in this country, my friends, a real change”.
Justin Trudeau made many promises to Canadians during his election campaign in 2015. Most notably, he proposed many changes to the way that our country welcomes immigrants and refugees. Specifically, Trudeau emphasized reuniting families, welcoming Syrian refugees, and repealing the “second-class citizens” provision of Bill C-24. This provision labelled those with dual nationalities as “second-class citizens” and gave the government the power to revoke Canadian citizenship from these individuals if they were “convicted of terrorism, high treason and several other serious offences.”
Trudeau stressed family reunification as one of the main focuses of his party’s immigration reforms. Immediate steps included doubling the budget for family class immigration processing to decrease processing times, doubling the number of new applications allowed yearly from parents and grandparents from 5,000 to 10,000, restoring the maximum age for dependants from 19 to 22, granting immediate permanent residency to new spouses entering Canada as opposed to a two-year conditional status, and granting additional points to applicants with Canadian siblings under the Express Entry system. Although Immigrations, Refugees and Citizenship Canada stated that it will accept the same number of application from parents and grandparents as it did last year, Immigration Minister John McCallum has since confirmed that he remains committed to fulfilling the election promise and is working with the Cabinet to make it a reality.
In their platform, Liberal government renewed and expanded their commitment “to helping resettle more refugees, and deliver a refugee program that is safe, secure, and humane.” Trudeau proposed that his Liberal government would welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year 2015. To do this, the Liberals pledged to invest $250 million towards the Canadian refugee cause. Although they were only successful in welcoming 6300 Syrian refugees as of January 3rd, they were able to meet their 25,000 goal by the end of February. As of July 24th, 2016, the Government of Canada had resettled 29,413 refugees, effectively delivering on their campaign promise and continuing their humanitarian efforts in the conflict.
Another important step in the fulfillment of election promises was the introduction of Bill C-6, which aims to “provide greater flexibility for applicants trying to meet the requirements for citizenship, and help immigrants obtain citizenship faster.” Changes included repealing the “national interest” grounds for stripping Canadian citizenship from dual citizens convicted of a terrorism or other serious offences. As well, the government will repeal the intent to reside provision, allowing Canadians to freely move outside of the country without fear of losing citizenship. Bill C-6 will also make it easier for immigrants to obtain citizenship by reducing the time required to be present in Canada to three out of five years instead of four out of six years. The Liberals have also proposed restoring the language proficiency and knowledge requirement to adults aged 18-54, revoking the change the Conservatives made that required those between the ages of 14 and 64 to pass those tests. Bill C-6 would also enhance the integrity and security of Canada’s immigration system by barring those currently serving conditional sentences from obtaining citizenship, by giving citizenship officers the authority to seize fraudulen
t citizenship documents, and by requiring “all (citizenship) applicants to continue to meet the requirements of citizenship until they take the Oath, regardless of when their application was received”.
Overall, the reforms that Trudeau has already made and has promised to make to Canada’s immigration system prove his commitment towards allowing a diverse and multicultural group of people to become Canadian citizens and contribute to the Canadian economy and way of life.
Other Policies to Assist Canada Environmentalism and Science Ending the Conservative’s War on Science
Janet Pelly, a freelance science journalist reported that the “Conservative Party leader gutted environmental legislation, terminated environmental monitoring programs, muzzled government scientists, and laid off over 2000 researchers from federal labs”. In addition, under Harper’s rule, Canada became the only country to remove itself from the Kyoto Protocol. Trudeau responded to these perceived attacks on science by promising to “respect and value scientists” in his platform. He also pledged to end the censorship of scientists in order to promote the free exchange of scientific knowledge and evidence within Canada. Trudeau began acting on these campaign promises as soon as he was elected. Just days after their victory, the Trudeau government informed Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada that they would now be permitted to discuss their research without any government prohibitions. The Trudeau government also took immediate measures to restore funding to freshwater and ocean science research. Finally, Trudeau’s government includes both a Chief Science Officer and a Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development. It is clear from these actions that Trudeau fully intends to roll back the Harpers affront on science and ensure that scientists are able to freely continue their work to improve Canada and its environment.
Premiers’ Conference on Climate Change
As promised in his campaign, Trudeau met with all of the provincial premiers and with Indigenous leaders in March 2016 to discuss climate change and Canadian environmental issues. At the public conference, Trudeau announced more than $125 million in funding for two environmentally friendly technological companies. The leaders also discussed environmentally-friendly infrastructure, clean technology, carbon emission reduction, and the Energy East pipeline. This sort of public discussion about scientific research is exactly what Trudeau promised in his platform.
Helping Canada’s Youth by Engaging Young Voters
The Liberal Party of Canada has articulated a desire to encourage more young people to become engaged in the democratic process. Trudeau plans to accomplish this goal by registering all eligible voters at the age of 18 through school programs and by ensuring that Elections Canada promotes student voting. This is an important issue, as Canadian voter turn-out has traditionally been the lowest amongst young people. Interestingly, in the 2015 election, there was a noticeable spike in young voter turn-out, with 67% casting a vote, in comparison to 55% in 2011. It will be interesting to see if these numbers continue to climb after Trudeau’s initiatives to support youth voting.
Promoting Health for Children
A quarter of children and adolescents in Canada are either overweight or obese. In order to address this serious health issue, Justin Trudeau promised to enact measures against the marketing of junk food to children, as well adding more information to food labels to allow parents and other consumers to make informed choices. The Liberal Party of Canada has also stated their intention to raise funding to the Public Health Agency of Canada, in order to heighten concussion awareness and promote vaccinations. Trudeau is currently in the process of fulfilling this promise.
Post-Secondary Education Funding
Trudeau’s government is currently in the process of investing $750 million in funding for post-secondary education grants. This will allow the maximum annual payment from Canada Student Grants to be risen to $3000 for full-time, low-income students. Trudeau has always promised to expand the eligibility requirements to allow those from middle-income families to benefit from grants as needed. In addition, Trudeau stated that the Liberal government will work with provinces to ensure that RESPs are effectively publicized so that it is easy for students to sign up for them. Trudeau has also planned to change the way that student loans are administered so that those who graduate from college or university will not have to make repay their student loans until they are earning a salary of $25 000 a year or more. This is important as it may enable Muslim students to pay off their loans before acquiring interest, thus ensuring that they do not commit the sin of riba. These are all important steps to ensuring that every member of Canada’s diverse society has a chance to attend post-secondary education and thus further their lives and careers.
Assisting Canada’s North
Canada is not only diverse in terms of the people who live here, but also in terms of geography. As well as prairies, coastlines, and boreal forests, there is the Canadian North. This geographical area is stunningly beautiful but also incredibly challenging to live in due to rugged weather, plunging temperatures, and a lack of the natural and human resources that those living in a city have access to. Unfortunately, these challenges can lead to socioeconomic and medical disparities in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations.
Throughout the North, unemployment flourishes. In 2013, it was estimated that the Nunavut government gives out $360 million in unemployment money to a population of only 34,000. As a result of this widespread poverty, two out of five Northern Canadians are “food insecure”. Additionally, Northern Aboriginals have a life expectancy that is thirteen years lower than the rest of Canada, and Northern communities experience elevated rates of invasive bacterial disease. Perhaps most concerning of all is the fact that Inuit people living in Northern Canada commit suicide at four time the rate of average Canadians. Amongst Inuit male youth living in Nunavut, the rate soars to 40% above the national average. It is clear that the North is an area of Canada that requires urgent attention and significant, sustainable initiatives guided at promoting health and well-being.
Trudeau’s government plans to handle these issues by increasing tax deductions for those who live in North. To reduce health disparities, 40 million dollars will be invested annually in the Nutrition North program over the next four years, according to the Liberals’ campaign promises. As well, in Trudeau’s election platform, he pledged to “make high-quality mental health services more available to Canadians who need them, including our veterans and first responders”. It will be interesting to see how this promise plays out in the North, where mental health services are perhaps needed the most. On June 13th 2016, Trudeau announced $70 million dollars in funding for Indigenious mental health services, which may help to address the extremely high suicide and addiction rates that typify Canada’s Inuit populations. Hopefully, Trudeau’s attention to the North will help to steer this important and diverse region of Canada in a better direction.
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