On the new era in Canada .. Alexandre Trudeau, Mélanie Joly, Harjit Sajjan, and Chief Jody Wilson-RaybouldNov 7th, 2015 | By Randall White | Category: Ottawa Scene
Not too long before the November 4 swearing-in ceremony finally began at Rideau Hall, the CBC TV cameras came to rest briefly on Justin Trudeau’s younger brother Alexandre (aka Sacha), and his wife Zoe and their three children.
They were quietly slipping into their seats, in the row just behind the row where the new prime minister’s wife and children (and mother) were sitting.
Unlike his brother, Alexandre Trudeau has chosen to live out of the limelight. (“He is more of an introvert … Justin is more of an extrovert,” Sophie Gregoire Trudeau told Sarah Hampson at the Globe and Mail back in 2008.)
It seems that the Ottawa media (somewhat uncharacteristically?) are in this case prepared to oblige. As best as I could tell, no CBC TV commentator at Rideau Hall referred to this particular celebrity out loud.
The camera nonetheless lingered long enough on the arrival of Alexandre and his family for those of us who vaguely recognized him to take note.
From the look on his face he was very pleased to be at his older brother’s swearing-in as prime minister of Canada.
We also know from the world-wide web that Alexandre Trudeau recruited the photogenic new Minister of Canadian Heritage, Mélanie Joly, into his brother’s campaign.
As he explained in a rare October 2013 media interview : “She’s the kind of person who brings energy, which is exactly what my brother needed — young, bold, creative-thinking people who are ready to take charge of today’s society … She’s really a born networker, too. She knows everyone, she’s comfortable in both left-wing circles, right-wing circles . . . she’s a good uniter.”
Alexandre Trudeau supported Ms Joly’s failed but interesting (and better than expected) Montreal mayoral candidacy in the fall of 2013. (See the La Presse headline for October 24 that year : “Mélanie Joly reçoit l’appui d’Alexandre Trudeau.”) He saw her as “a great, fresh, new politician for Montreal, and eventually for my brother … I thought she was good for federal because she’s an internationalist. She travels a lot.”
It would seem as well that Sacha’s instincts in these matters carry some weight. He “is an expert on genetics, on automobile combustion engines, on stock markets. On everything … he is somewhat of a Superman” — according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (And for more on Mélanie Joly, Harjit Sajjan, Jody Wilson-Raybould, and the British monarchy in Canada click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below.)
1. Interesting and possibly innovative new Minister of Canadian Heritage?
What kind of Minister of Canadian Heritage will the 36-year-old Mélanie Joly, MP for Montreal’s Ahuntsic-Cartierville riding, prove to be?
CBC News has summarized her career as “a former litigation lawyer and public relations executive,” who “has served on the board of various arts organizations and worked on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s leadership campaign.”
She was “the first Quebec woman recognized with the Arnold Edinborough Award, recognizing young professional volunteerism in the arts, in 2009.” And she has law degrees from Université de Montréal and Oxford.
More intriguingly to someone like me, Ms Joly has most recently (2014) published “her first book, a political treatise entitled Changer les règles de jeu (Changing the Rules of the Game).”
As CBC News also quietly explains : “The heritage portfolio comprises Canada’s arts, culture, sport and media industries, including agencies such as the Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm Canada, Library and Archives Canada, the National Film Board of Canada and the CBC.”
At this point who can really say just how successfully Mélanie Joly will manage or otherwise deal with this particular cluster of federal government expenditure programs, and more diffuse symbolic efforts to promote broader public benefits?
Yet whatever happens, for many of us (especially now that we’ve seen her on TV) Ms Joly is bound to be more interesting and refreshing than the abject British empire monarchists who have too often occupied her new position in the past (and not just under Conservative governments!).
The game of Canadian heritage, as the Ottawa bureaucracy currently understands the subject, almost certainly needs some kind of big change in the rules. An “internationalist” who “travels a lot” and is, at the same time, “passionate about her city of Montréal and the power of positive politics” may be able to do some good.
2. Brilliant “real change” appointment as Minister of National Defence
Meanwhile, almost as if to calm those who may feel that Mélanie Joly’s appointment implies some dimunition of official federal government respect for the ancient heritage of the British empire in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has come up with what strikes me as one of his most brilliant cabinet appointments.
I’m speaking here about Lt. Col. Harjit Singh Sajjan, former commanding officer of The British Columbia Regiment, and now Canada’s new Minister of National Defence.
Harjit Sajjan is “the newly elected Liberal MP for Vancouver South.” A Sikh of Punjabi descent, he “grew up in his riding and later walked the streets of Vancouver as a detective with the Vancouver Police Department’s gang crime unit.” He has had a career in the Canadian armed forces as well, serving “one tour in Bosnia” and three times in “Afghanistan.”
He has been awarded “several military honours, including the Meritorious Service Medal in 2013 for reducing the Taliban’s influence in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan, and a Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal.”
As CBC News has further explained : “Mr. Sajjan is just one of four Sikhs in Justin Trudeau’s new cabinet … Two of them wear turbans and hold powerful ministries, most notably Minister of Defence Harjit Singh Sajjan … Sajjan’s appointment is widely seen as the most symbolically powerful, according to Bupinder Hundal, a Vancouver journalist who covers the Sikh community … ‘A man in a turban and a beard responsible for a Western country’s military — that sends a real strong message, and in the community that’s a real sense of pride,’ he said.”
Mr. Sajjan ‘s appointment also honours another mythic part of the Canadian past. The ancestral Sikh community in the Punjab frequently bolstered the ranks of the armed forces in the old British Raj in India — the legendary jewel of the global empire on which the sun never dared to set. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has shown something both deep and full of ironic historical wit here. He is bowing to the diverse new global village in Canada today and the old imperial connections of the Canadian past at the same time!
3. Reaching all the way back to the most ancient past : an aboriginal (er … make that indigenous) Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada!
According to the legendary Canadian economic historian Harold Innis (born in rural Ontario in 1894, and died in Toronto not long after he was elected first Canadian president of the American Economic Association in 1952) : “We have not yet realized that the Indian and his culture were fundamental to the growth of Canadian institutions” (The Fur Trade in Canada : An Introduction to Canadian Economic History, 1930).
Some 85 years after Innis first uttered these poignant words in print, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s appointment of Jody Wilson-Raybould as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada has come close to an official recognition of just how much the westward-moving Cree and all the other first nations have contributed to the Canada we know today (starting with the Iroquoian name of the country itself).
Ms Wilson-Raybould is the 44-year-old newly elected Liberal MP for Vancouver Granville. As helpfully summarized on the CTV News site, she “is a former crown prosecutor, adviser at the BC Treaty Commission and First Nations chief. During her time as regional chief of the BC Assembly of First Nations, Wilson-Raybould focused on the advancement of First Nations governance, fair access to land and resources, and improved education and health. She is a member of the We Wai Kai Nation.”
Just a little deeper down, there are at least figurative ways in which this Prime Minister Trudeau and his Justice Minister Wilson-Raybould (both in their mid 40s) share certain family connections. The headline for a TV clip from the 1980s on the Vancouver Sun website elaborates on this theme : “Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s father told Pierre Trudeau that his daughter wanted to be Prime Minister … First Nations politician Bill Wilson told Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau at a 1983 constitutional conference that his daughter would like to some day be prime minister. On Wednesday, newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Jody Wilson Raybould Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General.”
For more informed comment on what all this may portend for the noble (and otherwise) practice of the law and much else in Canada, see Globe and Mail justice writer Sean Fine on “Full docket for Canada’s first aboriginal Justice Minister.” The second paragraph certainly sounds challenging : “For Canada’s first aboriginal federal Justice Minister, the task ahead is replete with the immediate – marijuana legalization, promised changes to a terrorism bill and a framework for assisted suicide – and the longer-term, including a possible rollback of the Conservative government’s tough criminal laws that helped cause the indigenous population in federal jails to spike.”
Mr. Fine’s third-last paragraph also rings certain real-change bells : “Ghislain Picard, the Quebec chief of the Assembly of First Nations, applauded the appointment [of Jody Wilson-Raybould as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada]. ‘The indication Mr. Trudeau has seen fit to nominate one of our people in a very, very high-profile portfolio certainly indicates his willingness to strengthen the relationship with our peoples.’”
4. Will “running late” be yet another feature of the new era of real change in Ottawa? … and looking between the paperwork lines …
Must quickly finish and go for coffee with the gang at the office here. Just two very quick final thoughts :
* At several points I seem to have heard the TV commentators on the November 4 swearing-in saying that things were “running late” … somewhat … Watching the gang of 31 (PM Trudeau and his equal 15 female and 15 male cabinet ministers of 2015) stroll up the driveway to Rideau Hall, as if they were on some walk through the Ottawa valley woods, it didn’t seem surprising. And then someone in the group I was watching with asked : “Is that going to be another theme of the new era : running late?” It may have been one of those remarks so apt as not to draw any further comment. As I think about it now, who cares? Maybe in the nature of things such dynamic and innovative human proceedings are always running a little late? As long as the new Minister of Finance from Toronto Centre is on time …
* Janyce McGregor’s “Justin Trudeau’s cabinet: 6 changes found in the fine print” is worth considerable further comment that no one has time for now. But maybe next … Meanwhile, if you haven’t seen it already, for suitably amusing evidence of the new prime minister’s smarts at work on the way to the November 4 swearing-in ceremony see “Justin Trudeau smacks down Mansbridge.” (And his father’s ghost must be smiling his approval for his eldest son’s performance here. As was said when Patrick Gossage became Pierre Trudeau’s press secretary, “it was an easy job. All he had to do was call the media into a room and tell them to fuck off!”)