Trudeau has every right to speak from the heart

Community Opinion & Analysis Dec 9, 2016 at 5:35 pm

Glvin MacfadyenBy Gavin MacFadyen
Columnist, Troy Media

NEW YORK– If the worst Canadians have to worry about is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waxing eloquent about the late Fidel Castro, it’s safe to say things are pretty darn good in the Great White North.

Upon learning of Castro’s death at age 90, Trudeau praised him as a “legendary revolutionary and orator” who made “significant improvements to the education and health care of his island nation.”

FIDEL CASTRO

FIDEL CASTRO

For many, his effusive praise went too far.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio – the son of Cuban immigrants – wondered if the statement was a “parody” while calling it “shameful and embarrassing.” Sen. Ted Cruz – whose father also emigrated from Cuba – called it “disgraceful.” It’s worth noting that both Rubio’s parents and Cruz’s father left Cuba before Castro came to power.

It’s actually a wonder Trudeau’s words surprised anyone. That’s not to denigrate the man – it’s just acknowledging who he is. In all things, he eschews the negative and the overtly confrontational in favour of what would be positive, affirming and a foundation upon which to build continued good relations. In this case, those relations are between Canada and Cuba, where Fidel’s brother, Raul, is still very much alive, kicking and in power.

Anyone who expected the prime minister to dance on the grave of a deceased leader who happened to be a long-standing and larger-than-life figure in his own childhood hasn’t been paying attention.

Fidel Castro enjoyed a weird bromance with Justin’s father Pierre Trudeau long before that term was in vogue. Call it a man-crush or just two kindred intellects discussing world politics, but the fact is Justin Trudeau had an up-close and personal view of Castro that no current western leaders could understand or even imagine.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU

JUSTIN TRUDEAU

He gave a personal response that – while not exactly advisable – was at least genuine and sincere. His only mistake was in speaking on behalf of all Canadians. He could easily have left that out or staffers could have worded the statement in such a way that the official, national response included more in-vogue references to human rights abuses and persecution of political dissenters.

I can only wonder if any of those huffing and puffing are among the tens of thousands of Canadians who have had no trouble vacationing in Castro’s Cuba for decades or were secretly a bit proud that ‘El Comandante’ came to Montreal to attend the funeral of Pierre Trudeau in 2000.

In the end, it was Trudeau’s response to the controversy that impressed me. Rather than back down, he showed flashes of the backbone inherited from his father and refused to run from his words.

Bravo. You can disagree with the words chosen while still admiring his willingness to stand behind them.

The next day, Trudeau acknowledged that Castro was a dictator and that there were ongoing human rights issues. But he also managed to send an always-needed reminder to the international community that Canadian foreign policy is independent from the United States.

But the last word should go to Don Cherry for no other reason than, for me, including him in a column that also references Castro is a kind of bizarre bucket-list wish fulfilment come true.

In a tweet, Cherry reluctantly admitted to admiring Trudeau for “marching to his own drum” and “when he says he likes Castro he knew he was going to get it from the right wing. It didn’t matter to him, he liked Castro and he let it be known. … Looks like he has lots of steel.”
Cherry concluded: “The prime minister gets ripped for having charm, good looks, personality and being a sharp dresser. I know how he feels.”
Cherry took the words right out of my mouth.
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Troy Media columnist Gavin MacFadyen is a U.S based writer and occasional lawyer. Blending insight and wit, he brings a unique perspective to the issues of the day.
© 2016 Distributed by Troy Media