Trudeau’s Latest Problems Repeat a Familiar Theme

A debate about whether Justin Trudeau is or was racist is not in itself useful. What is more pertinent is how the recent disclosures, and his reaction to them, further populate a trajectory of skirting the rules and exercising poor judgement.

The job of Prime Minister requires a high functioning, mature adult. In that context consider the following, provided in chronological order:

  1. There are at least three incidents—he says he is not sure how many—of Trudeau dressing up in brownface or blackface, a behavior that is widely acknowledged to be racist.

    The earliest ones should perhaps be given a pass as the indiscretions of youth, but he was 29 and a teacher at a private school in Vancouver at the time of the 2001 incident.

    He claims that “I always fought all my life against discrimination and intolerance. I should have known at that age not to do this.” Exactly.

    Hardly an attractive role model.
  2. He must have figured it out shortly thereafter. As part of the standard Liberal vetting of candidates in 2008, he would have been asked to disclose issues of this type. He did not.

    He says “I never talked about this. Quite frankly, I was embarrassed.” No doubt he was. Is that an acceptable explanation?
  3. In 2017, Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson ruled that Trudeau broke Canada’s ethics law by accepting two extravagant, all-expenses-paid family trips to an island in the Bahamas.

    This came at a time when the Aga Khan was discussing funding for projects with Trudeau’s government. It may be that he violated section 121 of the Criminal Code, put in place to catch just this kind of situation.

    Trudeau claimed that he didn’t report the trips because gifts from close friends were exempted.

    The commissioner rejected this because she noted, the two were not close friends and had only spoken once in 30 years.

    Why did Trudeau need this to be explained to him?
  4. In February 2018, Trudeau made a trip to India, including in his entourage a Sikh extremist named Jaspal Atwal who was previously affiliated with a terrorist group. Atwal was found guilty of trying to kill an Indian minister in 1986.

    Here is how Trudeau’s trip was reported from Delhi by Brakha Dutt of the Washington Post:

    “Given the seriousness and the sensitivities at stake (Sikh separatism), it was infuriating to watch Trudeau sashaying out, doing the Bhangra dance, at the same Canadian reception this week that was at the heart of the storm. You could feel the collective groan of Indians: Please. Stop. Enough Already.

    I confess, from afar, I used to be a Trudeau fan-girl. But after this trip, I’ve changed my mind. Trudeau has come across as flighty and facetious. His orchestrated dance moves and multiple costume changes in heavily embroidered kurtas and sherwanis make him look more like an actor on a movie set or a guest at a wedding than a politician who is here to talk business. Suddenly, all that charisma and cuteness seem constructed, manufactured and, above all, not serious.

    “He seems more much more convinced of his own rock-star status than we ever were,” said one official in the Indian government who preferred to remain anonymous.
  5. In 2019, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion concluded that Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by trying to get then-Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to overrule a decision to not grant a deferred prosecution agreement to SNC-Lavalin.

    In his report, Dion wrote, “The evidence showed there were many ways in which Mr. Trudeau, either directly or through the actions of those under his direction, sought to influence the attorney general.”

    Dion found Trudeau contravened Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act through a series of “flagrant attempts to influence” Wilson‑Raybould to enable SNC-Lavalin to avoid criminal prosecution.

    Trudeau said he accepted responsibility for what had been done but that he disagreed “with some of the findings”, which really meant that he rejected the report’s central finding of his culpability.

    He treated the report as if it was a recommendation that required his approval rather than a finding that he violated the Act.

    During this process, he was less than truthful about whether he had pressured Wilson-Raybould, and his decision to demote her from her role as Attorney General and Justice Minister.

Sprinkled among these events were numerous ill-considered communications such as the unfortunate tweet that prompted a surge of asylum seekers to enter Canada at illegal border crossings.

In 2015 many voters were determined to defeat Stephen Harper. At first, they gravitated toward the NDP’s Tom Mulcair. Expectations of Trudeau in debates were low, and he exceeded them. And he was terrific with crowds, so he won the anti-Harper vote.

In 2019 the question for voters is not whether Trudeau is or was racist. It is to consider whether they believe Trudeau has the maturity, integrity, and intellectual heft to be Prime Minister.

Of course, the same question needs to be asked of Scheer.


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