Trudeau Committed to Breaking Down Barriers and Promoting Inclusivity

Although many things about Justin Trudeau make me uncomfortable, (endorsing controversial gas pipelines and ignoring the impoverished to focus on the Middle Class), his commitment to listening to the needs of Canadians in numerous town halls across the country in January, his support for women, and his attunement to the victims of acts of terrorism have instilled hope in me.

I recently obtained a press pass to attend a forum with Trudeau, sponsored by The Martin Prosperity Institute and The New York Times, at the Rotman School of Business, in Toronto. Although the business people in the audience had paid to hear him talk about trade, Trudeau said very little about trade—except to say that NAFTA was solid and that he intends to pursue more international trade deals in the coming years.

Instead, he focused on the need to “connect people” who are different from one another. He seemed, in his speech, to seek to empower and motivate his audience rather than to dictate, entertain or inform them. Trudeau is filled with youthful enthusiasm and energy, but his ability to contemplate is evident. He doesn’t just spit out pat answers. He thinks before he speaks.

“Canada is a great place. I intend to serve it with everything I have,” he told the audience.

His commitment to service is admirable. Many of Trudeau’s public speeches have centred around Canadian values. The values he endorses seem identical to those of the United Church, such as tolerance, inclusivity, compassion, respect, openness and a commitment to equality and justice. Perhaps that is because Trudeau openly espouses a main line denominational Christian faith. After growing up as a regular church attendee with his father, Trudeau admitted to becoming a “nominal” Christian. When his younger brother Michel died in a tragic accident, the Prime Minister made a renewed commitment to the Catholic faith. That faith is obvious in many of the decisions he makes and in his attitude toward the pressing issues of the day.

“Canadians help,” he told the crowd at Rotman. “We’re very open to immigration. People from church basements to municipalities said they wanted to do more and to bring people in who will help build a better country. We’re not just helping refugees out of humanitarian concern, but because they can provide a great growth of economic opportunity.”

“When people are unsure of their jobs,” he told the crowd, “it’s easier for them to look for an ‘other’ to blame. There have been some troubling examples of intolerance. But here in Canada, diversity has been a source of strength. This has enabled us to build more creative communities. This can give us a tremendous advantage.”

“When six men were gunned down in a Montreal Mosque, the whole city came out. Canadians lean on each other. It’s part of the psyche of our country. The Canadian identity is based on shared values. Our identity is diverse, but our values are shared. We have the same hopes and dreams.”

Trudeau faces some tough opposition to his dreams of inclusivity from south of the border. He did say Trump listens to him. “President Trump is interested in how Canada does immigration on a point system” he said, “He’s open to shifting his position.”

“I don’t believe in thickening the border between Canada and the United States,” the Prime Minister said. “Anything you do to thicken the border will hurt both sides. No country in the world has a greater vested interested in having the U.S. succeed than Canada. And Canada is far more important to the the U.S. than America realizes. We are a source of tremendous jobs and prosperity for the U.S. There’s a tremendous friendship between us”

Trudeau told the crowd he also believes in breaking down barriers between political parties. “I have a tremendous respect for our former prime ministers. There’s a need for cross partisan collaboration.” The Prime Minister said he has consulted Kim Campbell, Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney on various issues.

My overall impressions from a fleeting connection with the Prime Minister are positive. He’s smaller than he appears on TV. He moves quickly. An avid runner, he bounces across a room as if he has springs underneath his feet. He seems genuinely friendly and he operates on intuitive energy. He’s able to swiftly size up and connect with a crowd. It’s easy to get caught up in the charisma.

At the end of the session, Trudeau’s ties to big business were still bothersome. He is obviously an elite with deep connections to the powers that be. Is it possible for his faith to guide him in spite of his powerful connections? Perhaps.