by Christa Jetté
Being Canadian comes with a set of unwritten values, cultural ideals and views on world issues that set a Canadian apart from someone who is British, Australian or even American. For these reasons, Justin Trudeau’s victory in the 2015 national election was and is a crucial development in the history of Canadian politics. Canada’s previous administration, the Harper Government, enacted many changes that ultimately harmed Canada’s reputation around the world. Trudeau’s win will hopefully ensure that Canada’s critical values of multiculturalism, equality, accessible social services, environmentalism and a military focus on peacekeeping instead of aggression will be repaired and upheld for the years to come. Since his inauguration as Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has demonstrated his dedication to these Canadian values and has even taken additional steps never before taken by preceding governments, including a gender- and race-balanced cabinet. Despite Trudeau’s recent answer of “it’s 2015” to a question about why he introduced an equally balanced cabinet, not even half a year earlier this level of forward-thinking appreciation for the country’s values was far from the Canadian imagination.
Canadians revealed their discontent with the previous administration when a majority of votes, 37.2% according to CBC News, effectively brought Stephen Harper’s decade-long tenure to a sudden end by ushering into power a candidate with a familiar familial name but a fresh new face. Justin Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, beat the odds against a long-reigning Conservative government and has immediately set to work on holding up his campaign promises, giving Canadians hope that the Canadian values of the past can rise again. Within the first few weeks of his term, Trudeau declared that Canada was pulling out from its bombing missions in both Syria and Iraq; he un-muzzled the environmental scientists and ushered in a gender-equal cabinet. He has even announced his intention of amending Bill C-24, a piece of legislation which effectively created two classes of Canadian citizenship. Trudeau adamantly defended this decision by arguing that Canada should itself deal with citizens who commit crimes of terrorism, instead of revoking their citizenship and handing the accused over to another country for processing. Thus, if an individual decides to become a Canadian citizen, they will not be placed in a bracket of Canadians who can lose the rights they have worked hard to attain at the whim of a judge. On top of all this, Trudeau is also committed to aiding Europe with the refugee crisis and has promised to resettle at least 25,000 refugees in Canada by the end of the year.
The question that needs to be asked, however, is whether this represents a marked improvement from before. Under Stephen Harper’s rule, Canada was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Military action and the threat of terrorism were thrust to the forefront, and fear had become a common household word. Harper withdrew Canada from the Kyoto Protocol in 2011, blaming an “incompetent Liberal government” for ever having concluded the agreement in the first place, according to CBC press releases from the time. Harper also silenced Canadian scientists and focused a good portion of the economy solely on the plentiful oil reserves of the west. In addition, there was an increase in government scandals, most of which had to do with embezzlement as well as serious changes to immigration policies which further decreased an already small refugee quota. And, following the October 2014 shootings at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Harper, believing Canada to be in imminent danger of terrorist attacks, passed Bill C-51 which allowed the government to strip away the privacy of Canadians. Following the introduction of that bill, changes were made to a second one, indirectly creating two separate classes of Canadian citizens; the first safe from having their citizenship revoked no matter the crime, and the second under threat of deportation solely because either they or their parents had been born outside of the country.
Harper’s disregard for the aboriginal population when they approached him concerning many pressing issues was also deemed unacceptable considering the significant marginalization of these people throughout Canadian history and prompted, in some communities, a 270% increase in aboriginal voter turnout during the 2015 federal elections according to CBC News. To add oil to fire, Harper jeopardized relations with the United States of America, Canada’s biggest trading partner, by aggressively pushing the subject of the Keystone XL pipeline down the throats of the Obama administration as well as his vastly differing stance on how to treat the environment. Indeed, the Financial Post remarked recently that vetoing the pipeline altogether might be the best way to reset relations between the two neighboring nations. Finally, it must be noted that on top of sullying US-Canada relations, Harper managed to do the same with Mexican-Canadian affairs by imposing a visa on Mexicans wishing to travel to Canada, something which had previously not been an issue.
Because of Harper’s many recent aggressively anti-Canadian stances and actions, the Canadian election could not have come at a better time. Due to the long rule of the Conservative Government, the 2015 national election became one of the most important Canadian elections of the twenty-first century. It led to the largest voter turnout since 1993, according to Global News, and forced Canadians to admit to themselves that the country was moving towards a more close-minded, environmentally unfriendly and pro-military stance. Ultimately, the nation needed to decide if it wanted to preserve its former values of multiculturalism, peacekeeping and environmentalism. The first of these values can be found in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which demonstrates its deeply-rooted importance to the Canadian people. Nevertheless, there are many Canadians, specifically the 30.9% of Conservative voters, who would disagree with these claims and would state that Harper has done a lot for the economy and the security of Canada. Following recent economic developments, however, the Canadian economy has shrunk “…for the first two quarters of 2015,” according to the Financial Post, which has led Canada into the recession Harper had often boasted about avoiding.
Justin Trudeau is not perfect. It is clear that he will make mistakes as all men do, but he has proven in the short time alone since his inauguration that he is committed to the betterment of Canada. Trudeau has already begun to correct the missteps of the Harper administration and is attending to issues that two months ago no one would have believed possible. He has taken responsibility when the Harper Government refused to do so, and more importantly he is invested in Canada’s future. As a nation who prides themselves on upstanding moral values, electing Justin Trudeau is the remedy for a once-waning international reputation.