As a Canadian abroad, I find that Justin Trudeau comes up in conversation a lot. It feels like almost every time I introduce myself and someone hears where I am from, their immediate reaction is “Canada? Justin Trudeau! I love Justin Trudeau!” Don’t get me wrong, I completely get it. He is by far the most attractive Prime Minister Canada has ever had (especially when compared to the previous PM Stephen Harper, yuck). And he brings a lot of important issues to the spotlight.
One of my favorite things about Trudeau is how much of his media coverage is dedicated to marginalized groups in Canada — particularly women, indigenous peoples, and refugees. I am so proud to be from a country whose leader is so well-spoken on relevant and important issues, and I think he has the power to give subjugated groups a voice, and to unite Canada’s citizens regardless of their background or heritage. I also love the way, regardless of the gender or age of those I am talking to about Trudeau, everyone agrees equally on how attractive he is.
When visiting Paris one weekend, I met a young Moroccan man outside my hostel while smoking a cigarette (because that’s what you do in Paris). While he had the same reaction as most do when hearing that my friend and I were from Canada, he seemed even more passionate than most about his love for Trudeau: “Everyone from Morocco loves Trudeau, he makes us all feel like we are welcome in Canada, that we could move there any time and be welcomed with open arms.” As much as I would love this to be true, however, it’s not.
It’s hard to fight a positive stereotype, but a lot of Canadians find themselves in that position. Although it is hard to complain when compared with what our neighbors to the south have to deal with— every American I’ve ever met while traveling immediately follows “I’m from the States” with “I DIDN’T VOTE FOR TRUMP.” Nevertheless, it seems that for many, Canada is seen as a utopia where all different ethnicities and nationalities live together in peace and harmony. As I said before, this is not the case.
Trudeau’s media campaign has created the façade that Canada is a multicultural paradise, and although we do pride ourselves on being diverse, that does not make us nearly as tolerant as many think. We have very real issues of inequality, and deep-rooted racism toward our aboriginal communities (most are shocked when I inform them that the last residential school closed as recently as 1995, the year I was born).
But this is only the smallest explanation as to why I have an issue with the visual framing and marketing of Trudeau’s campaign. I feel it is important to not only show the progress and positive change being put in action, but also to make us all aware of the issues that are still affecting Canadians today.
The reality is that there is a lot more to Canadian politics than a pretty face, and Justin Trudeau should not be given so much praise just yet— because there is still much work to be done.