The Downfall of Canada’s Dreamy Boyfriend
“He is getting so embarrassing, tbh.”
That was the text I woke up to this morning from a Canadian friend who, like me, has been living in the United States. She was talking about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and yesterday’s Time magazine bombshell report that he once wore brownface to an “Arabian Nights” party while a teacher at a private school in Vancouver in 2001. (Since Time’s story broke, other instances of Mr. Trudeau in blackface and brownface have surfaced, including a video.)
My friend was referring to how Mr. Trudeau is seen on the world stage, but especially in the United States, a country that had a tendency to pretend that Canada didn’t exist until Mr. Trudeau came along. And her text encapsulated a distinction I’ve noticed in how Americans have been receiving this story compared with Canadians. For Americans, Mr. Trudeau’s downfall from liberal media darling — remember Rolling Stone’s 2017 cover, “Why can’t he be our president?” — to disgraced politician has been swift. For Canadians, it has been a long time coming.
It all started back in 2015 when Mr. Trudeau won a surprising majority victory over the longtime Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Cozying up to then-President Barack Obama, the two young, charismatic world leaders had what the press affectionately called a “bromance.”
But south of the border, excitement over Mr. Trudeau didn’t really reach its zenith until November 2016. Before that, the prime minister, with his self-described feminism and his openness to Syrian refugees, had cast himself as Canada’s answer to the charismatic and cosmopolitan liberalism of the Obama years. Now, however, for American liberals, he was no longer cute kid brother but foil: Mr. Trudeau offered the perfect juxtaposition to the crassness of Donald Trump. Every detail, from his luxurious hair to his stylish socks, seemingly served to emphasize their differences.
It was in this spirit that Rolling Stone put Mr. Trudeau on its cover and Vogue did a sultry photo shoot with him and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau. Talk of “Canadian exceptionalism” made the rounds — the idea that while the United States was imploding, Canada was a beacon of hope in a world gone mad. It was a sentiment echoed by pundits on both sides of the border: Adam Gopnik wrote an essay in The New Yorker reminding Americans, “We could have been Canada,” while Stephen Marche, writing in the Toronto-based publication The Walrus, called Canada “the last country on Earth to believe in multiculturalism.”
正是基于这种态度，《滚石》杂志让特鲁多上了封面，《Vogue》杂志为特鲁多及其妻子索菲·格雷瓜尔·特鲁多(Sophie Gregoire Trudeau)拍了一组性感大片。关于“加拿大例外论”的讨论一时无两——大家认为美国正在崩溃，加拿大是一个疯狂世界的希望灯塔。这一观点成为了国境两边媒体上的专家共识：亚当·戈普尼克(Adam Gopnik)在《纽约客》发文提醒美国人，“我们本可以成为加拿大”；而斯蒂芬·马尔奇(Stephen Marche)在多伦多的出版物《海象》(The Walrus)称加拿大是“地球上最后一个相信多元文化主义的国家”。
On the world stage, things were bright. But back home, the love affair with Mr. Trudeau, for those who ever had one, was short-lived.
Characteristically for politicians, it started with a failed promise. In early 2017, the Trudeau government announced it wouldn’t be pursuing electoral reform, despite making it a major part of the Liberal Party platform. (The reforms were part of a broader effort to make Canada’s parliamentary system proportionately representative.)
Then, in 2018, Mr. Trudeau made one of his most shocking moves: purchasing the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which runs from Alberta to coastal British Columbia, as part of an expansion project to increase capacity and add portions of new pipeline. Coming from a prime minister who said he was committed to green energy and tackling climate change, the move angered environmentalists and some Indigenous nations who oppose the pipeline, including those who had supported Mr. Trudeau.
Mr. Trudeau’s public image as a liberal feminist committed to gender equality also took a hit with the more recent affair involving the Montreal-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin. The details of this evolving and very Canadian political scandal are difficult to explain. But in brief, it started with allegations that Mr. Trudeau’s office tried to interfere in then-Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s investigation into the firm. The important part, for Mr. Trudeau’s brand, is that following the resignation of Ms. Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, a former Treasury Board president, from Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet, the prime minister kicked them out of his party. For many, this was a shocking way to treat two of his most prominent female allies, including the country’s first Indigenous justice minister.
在不久前涉及蒙特利尔工程公司SNC兰万灵公司(SNC-Lavalin)的一件事上，特鲁多作为致力于性别平等的自由派女性主义者的公众形象也受到了打击。这一不断演变、颇具加拿大特色的政治丑闻细节很难解释。简言之，它起因于特鲁多的办公室被指控试图介入时任司法部长王州迪(Jody Wilson-Raybould)对该公司的调查。对特鲁多的形象而言，最重要的是继王州迪和前国库委员会主席、特鲁多内阁成员费普真(Jane Philpott)辞职后，这位总理把她们赶出了他的政党。在很多人看来，如此对待他最突出的两名女性盟友——其中包括加拿大首位原住民司法部长——着实令人震惊。
In Canada, these developments, as well as a host of others, have changed how liberals see Mr. Trudeau. He is far less popular than he was in 2015, a leader despised on the right and often ridiculed on the left.
These stories, though, rarely made a stir in the United States. Occasionally, I’d see articles alluding to Mr. Trudeau’s troubles. Recently, Hasan Minhaj’s Netflix series “Patriot Act” featured an episode with Mr. Trudeau, in which he uncomfortably answers questions about the gap between his image and his policies. But overall, the American story of Mr. Trudeau as a “dream politician for the left,” as Mr. Minhaj put it, stuck. Until now, that is.
不过这些报道很少在美国引发关注。我只是偶尔瞥见暗指特鲁多麻烦事的文章。近来，哈桑·米纳季(Hasan Minhaj)的Netflix喜剧节目《爱国者法案》(Patriot Act)有一期专门讨论特鲁多，他在其中就特鲁多的形象和他的政策之间的差距给出了令人不安的回答。不过总体上，如米纳季所说，特鲁多身为“左派梦想政治家”的美国寓言还站得住脚。那也就是当时。
There are two ways this story will be understood, depending on which side of the border you’re on.
For many Americans, the story connects Canada to what’s often seen as a deeply ingrained American tradition: blackface. Down here, Trudeau’s brownface and blackface episodes are bursting the Canadian exceptionalism bubble. Slowly but surely Americans are learning we Canadians can be just like you: very, very racist.
For Canadians, though, the story is different. It also has bigger stakes, coming as it does in the middle of a federal election that has seen the Liberals and Conservatives neck-and-neck in the polls. It’s the latest in a series of scandals that have led many liberals to grow disillusioned and, yes, even flat out embarrassed by Mr. Trudeau.
Sorry, Americans. As Canadians living in the United States, we tried to tell you: That dude you thought was your dreamy boyfriend? He’s not all he’s cracked up to be. And like you, we’re wondering, as Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party and the first person of color to lead a major party, put it: “Who is the real Mr. Trudeau?”