Irish in Canada on Trudeau: ‘Look beyond his feathered hair and fancy socks’

‘Trudeaumania’ hit fever pitch in the Irish media this week but in Canada, views are mixed

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau's visit to Dublin ahead of the G20 summit in Hamburg included meetings with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and President Michael D Higgins and tours of the Epic Irish Emigration Museum and Famine Memorial.

 

“Trudeaumania” hit Ireland on Tuesday as the Canadian prime minister compared socks with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar before the pair went for a jog in the Phoenix Park, discovered his family roots in Co Cork stretching back to the 17th century at the Epic Emigration Museum, paid tribute to the famine emigrants who sailed to Canada at the Famine Memorial on Custom House Quay, and dined with special guests at a dinner in his honour, hosted by the Taoiseach at Dublin Castle.

Trudeau’s welcome for immigrants and refugees and support for women’s rights (not to mention his charm and dashing good looks) have won him favour all over the world, but lately, his approval ratings have been dropping at home in Canada.

Irish Times Abroad asked readers living in Canada to share their views on the prime minister this week. Below is a selection of the responses we received.

Bee Ní Choitir, Montreal: ‘I’d ask people to look beyond his feathered hair’

I’m originally from Co Clare but I moved to Canada last November, because of the conservative decisions made by the Irish Government which resulted in a lack of job opportunities for me in Ireland.

Now I live in Montreal, Quebec which is a political hot-spot in Canada so it’s not hard to get sucked into Canadian politics. I like some of Trudeau’s liberal policies; he’s a feminist, and he’s been very supportive towards refugees. But people have issues with his far-fetched plans, and I can see why tax payers are upset with the burden he’s put them under. Many people here describe him as “a big spender”, and follow with “like his father”.

He often refuses to answer questions and concerns within parliament, which results in distrust among citizens, as if he’s hiding something. He has also been criticised for turning a blind eye to the discrimination displayed against indigenous communities. And for someone who shows so much support for refugees, he continues to be involved in the wars that force refugees to flee in the first place. He’s also selective about which refugees to support; he refuses to recognise Palestine and the plight of refugees from Palestine, of which there are 7.2 million worldwide.

I’d ask people to look beyond his feathered hair and assortment of fancy socks.

Dale McDermott , Toronto: ‘We need more leaders like him’

I’m a 24-year-old management consultant from Dublin. I left Ireland in September 2016 to gain a new, international experience while I could, and Canada felt like the place for me. As a young person, in a world filled with deep cynicism towards politics, globalisation and immigration, Canada stands out, and this is due to Justin Trudeau’s diversity and inclusiveness agenda. When many countries are building walls and closing borders, Canada’s door is wide open for anyone who wants to come here and make a good life for themselves. Justin Trudeau has certainly put Canada on the world stage and with forward-thinking policies such as having a gender equal cabinet, Syrian refugee asylum, LGBT rights and focusing on improving life for the squeezed middle. The past year has been tumultuous and depressing for the youth of the world. But with leaders like Justin Trudeau in power, I’m confident that the world will fight back against cynicism towards immigration and politics, and unite around hope for the future. We need more leaders like him before it’s too late.

Patrick McKenna, Montreal : ‘His skills as PM will affect us all’

I’ve been in Canada since 1975 so I was able to watch as Justin Trudeau’s dad struggled with the difficult job of PM. I hope it works out for Justin and for the country, since his skills as PM will affect us all. I appreciate his stance on First Nations rights, advancing the inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women, and promising to implement the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the residential schools. I truly empathise with him as he manages the relationship with the US. Already Canada is facing tariffs on softwood lumber and NAFTA is up for renegotiation. If the trade deal with Europe can help diversify Canada away from the US that would be great, although to be fair, the trade deal wasn’t launched by Justin’s liberals.

Although he kept his promise to pull Canadian fighter planes out of Syria and Iraq there still are ground troops who seem to be closer to the enemy that they were supposed to be. He has deployed troops in the Baltic region as part of a Nato initiative to deter Russian expansion. The military budget will be increased by 70 per cent over the next seven years. All of this is pretty militaristic and not very Canadian. Canada is still pretty dependent on the oil, forestry, mining and minerals industries and squaring those with COP21 will be challenging.

Justin broke his campaign promise to move the electoral process towards proportional representation. He inexplicably opposes legislation on protection of genetic testing data passed by his own government. As for legalising cannabis, transgender rights and his stance as a self-declared feminist, I am pretty neutral.

Annabelle King, Vancouver: ‘He’s so personable, open and warm’

I have lived in Vancouver for five and half years in total, and I think JT is awesome. When I moved back here after some time in Ireland recently, I was so impressed by him that I started taking an interest in politics for the first time. In Ireland I never did because it always seemed that each leader was only - at best - a mild improvement on the last one.

Justin gets the job done, doesn’t dilly dally, and just stomps out historical laws or policies that don’t make sense. He’s also super supportive of immigrants. He reversed the change in years you needed to live here before applying for citizenship the previous leader had extended.

He’s so personable, open and warm and he is all over Twitter, which really opens up the politics conversation with the people.

Anne Costello, Toronto: ‘Our fearless leader will bring us forward’

I have lived in Toronto since 1990. I was in Ottawa on June 30th preparing for Canada Day celebrations by checking out Parliament Hill. My husband and I were in front of the stage. There was a kafuffle and energy soared through the crowd. “Mr Trudeau!!” He was fit, charismatic and young.

As he shook hands and made his way to the stage, I understood how those who meet him feel “this is a man who is in charge”. No ego. Just a Canadian who embraces all five continents on the hill. We are all different, but we are all dressed in red and white. We are joined together by our fierce loyalty to a country that has given us opportunity and welcomes all without exception. Our fearless leader will bring us forward. I’m a fan! At 65, I will not be there for the 200th Canada Day celebrations, but many who were there for the 150th this weekend will. Justin Trudeau may be there too, and I hope his successor has his same vision and talent.

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