Who Is Justin Trudeau?
Justin Trudeau spent his early years in the spotlight as the son of famed Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau. After college, Justin worked as a teacher for several years before entering politics. He was first elected to the Canadian Parliament in 2008. In 2013, Trudeau became the leader of the Liberal Party. He and his party won an impressive victory in 2015 with Trudeau becoming the country's second youngest prime minister.
Early Life and Career
Born on December 25, 1971, in Ottawa, Canada, Justin Trudeau was immersed in Canadian politics from the start. He is the oldest son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau and his wife Margaret and spent his early years at 24 Sussex Drive, the prime minister's residence in Ottawa. In fact, only months after his birth, American president Richard Nixon predicted his political future during a Canadian state dinner with Trudeau's father. Nixon said, according to BBC news, "I'd like to toast to the future prime minister of Canada: To Justin Pierre Trudeau."
Trudeau's parents separated in 1977. After their divorce was finalized in 1984, Pierre moved to Montreal with Justin and his younger brothers Alexandre, or "Sacha," and Michel. Justin attended the same school as his father, the Jesuit-run College Jean-de-Brebeuf. He went on to study literature at McGill University, earning his bachelor's degree in 1994. Among the many jobs he took on during these years, he served as a nightclub bouncer in British Columbia, a snowboard and white water rafting instructor, a radio host and math teacher.
Justin would go on to pursue a degree in education at the University of British Columbia. He completed his degree in 1998—the same year that tragedy struck the family when his brother Michel died in an avalanche. In the wake of this loss, Justin became involved in promoting avalanche safety.
In 2000, he delivered the eulogy for his father in a nationally televised service for the late prime minister. Trudeau impressed many with his eloquent speech, but he shied away from any suggestions that he'd enter politics. Instead he returned to Montreal and became the chair of the board of Katimavik, a youth service program created by his father. Trudeau also was in demand as a speaker, delivering talks across the country to youth on volunteerism.
After years of avoiding the political arena, Trudeau stepped into the fray in 2006 by chairing the Liberal Party's task force on youth renewal. The following year, Trudeau began his campaign for a Parliament seat representing Montreal's Papineau riding (district), winning the post in 2008. He also appeared as legendary soldier Talbot Papineau in the historical TV movie The Great War in 2007.
In addition to having acting skills, Trudeau showed himself to be a skilled boxer in 2012. He had sparred with his father growing up, and that practice paid off when he defeated conservative senator Patrick Brazeau in a charity boxing match. The charismatic, young Trudeau also proved to be a rising political force, becoming the Liberal Party's leader in 2013.
Two years later, Trudeau sought Canada's highest office. He promised Canadian voters "real change" in his campaign, calling for tax increases for the wealthy and tax cuts for the middle class. He also pledged to protect abortion rights and push through the legalization of marijuana in Canada. A committed environmentalist, Trudeau also stated that he would work on the country's climate change policies. His positive campaign stood in sharp contrast to his opponent Stephen Harper's re-election efforts, which included numerous attack ads on Trudeau.
Trudeau led his allies to a remarkable victory in October 2015, with the Liberal Party making the jump from 36 seats to a Parliament-majority 184 seats — the largest increase in the country's history. He unseated Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper, who had served as prime minister since 2006. In his victory speech, Trudeau said, according to the National Post, "Canadians have spoken. You want a government with a vision and an agenda for this country that is positive and ambitious and hopeful... I promise you tonight that I will lead that government."
At 43 years old, Trudeau was the second youngest person to become prime minister of Canada — (the first being Joe Clark who had been sworn in as PM a day before his 40th birthday in 1979). Trudeau also became the first verified PM with non-European roots, his sixth great grandmother being of Malays descent.
In November 2015 Trudeau made headlines when he appointed half of his cabinet positions to women, honoring a campaign promise of having a gender-balanced cabinet. When asked why he felt the need to do this, the self-purported "proud feminist" simply replied: "Because it's 2015."
Oil Pipeline Controversy
Despite Trudeau's progressive popularity, opposition found its way to the young prime minister. In November 2016 environmentalists, political allies and indigenous groups railed against his approval to expand The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain project, a pipeline allowing oil sands from Alberta to be transferred to a port in British Columbia, citing harm to the environment and climate. Trudeau rejected this notion and asserted his decision was based on science and would not threaten the environment.
Relations with U.S. President Trump
Trudeau at times clashed with Donald Trump after the latter was elected U.S. President in 2016, particularly after Trump attempted to install a travel ban the following year that seemingly targeted Muslim-majority countries. More bad vibes followed in 2018, when the White House announced it was imposing stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Both Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron slammed Trump's actions, prompting the U.S. president to announce he was leaving the June G-7 summit early.
Following Trump's departure, Trudeau told reporters that Canada would launch retaliatory tariffs on July 1. "I have made it very clear to the president that it is not something we relish doing, but it is something that we absolutely will do because Canadians, we're polite, we're reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around," he said.
Alleged Prosecution Interference
Trudeau found himself in hot water after former Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned in February 2019 over claims of government interference in an important case. At stake was the prosecution of Montreal-based engineering firm SNC Lavalin, which faced criminal charges for funneling money to the family of former Libya dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi. Wilson-Raybould testified that she was pressured by the prime minister and senior members of his government to avoid a trial and negotiate a settlement with SNC Lavalin.
When a second cabinet member resigned in protest in early March, Trudeau held a news conference to defend his actions, arguing it was important to advocate for the interests of a major jobs provider while also respecting the rule of law. "Canadians expect us to do those two things at the same time and that's what we will always do," he said.
The prime minister became mired in another controversy in September 2019, when Time published an 18-year-old photo of Trudeau in brownface. The photo dated from his days as a teacher at West Point Grey Academy, when he dressed as a character from Aladdin for the school's "Arabian Nights"-themed dinner. Trudeau apologized, saying it was "a dumb thing to do," though he admitted to also once wearing blackface for a performance of Harry Belafonte's "The Banana Boat Song" in high school. Soon afterward, more troubling footage surfaced with a video showing Trudeau in blackface and an Afro wig from the early 1990s.
Trudeau married Canadian TV and radio host Sophie Grégoire in 2005. The couple has three children, Xavier, Ella-Grace and Hadrien. In 2014, Trudeau published his memoir Common Ground, in which he shared his experiences as the son of a prime minister.
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