Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in a political pickle. Trudeau and his team are accused of pressuring Canada’s first Native Canadian attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to make a deal with a Quebec-based engineering firm, and of demoting her when she refused.
The firm, SNC-Lavalin, was accused of paying bribes to get Libyan government contracts. The deal would have allowed the firm to avoid criminal conviction. If convicted, the firm would have been banned from receiving federal contracts for a decade. SNC-Lavalin employs thousands in Quebec, Trudeau’s home province, and Wilson-Raybould said that Trudeau worried about people losing those jobs.
The whole thing is messier than poutine. Jane Philpott, another senior member of team Trudeau, resigned Monday. Gerald Butts, a top Trudeau aide, resigned last week, and is delivering testimony Wednesday. Some are wondering whether Trudeau himself will be able to hang on.
The whole story is particularly scandalous because Trudeau, elected in 2015, was a media darling for years, perceived as a champion of women and indigenous rights. But though this is arguably the first time Trudeau’s golden boy status has been tarnished, the shine had faded a few times before. Below, a look at Trudeau’s previous — albeit far lower stakes — scandals.
The time Trudeau explained quantum computing
In spring 2016, Trudeau was at a news conference at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario. A reporter half-jokingly asked the prime minister to explain quantum computing. He did. The moment went viral, because of course it did.
But wait! It then turned out that, earlier that day, he said that he had hoped someone would ask him about quantum computing! It was staged! A setup! “Is Justin Trudeau just a big, hot phony?” asked Jezebel, answering: “Yes. The answer is yes.”
The time Trudeau broke the ethics act
In December 2017, Canada’s ethics commissioner ruled that Trudeau had violated Canadian ethics laws with two all-expenses-paid trips to the Bahamas. The island was owned by the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims (and a billionaire). Trudeau and his family took an undisclosed trip to the island at the end of 2016, and his wife took another in March of that same year. Trudeau tried to say that taking trips on a private helicopter to the island wasn’t a violation of the Conflict of Interest Act because he and the Aga Khan were friends, and public officeholders can accept gifts from friends. The ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson, wasn’t buying it; Trudeau and the Aga Khan had spoken once in 30 years before Trudeau became party leader. Her report said Trudeau violated four sections of the act — the first time a sitting prime minister had done so since it became law in 2006.
The time Trudeau told a woman to say “peoplekind,” not “mankind”
“Maternal love is the love that’s going to change the future of mankind,” said a woman asking about laws on the charitable status of religious organizations at a February 2018 event.
“We like to say ‘peoplekind,' not necessarily ‘mankind,' because it’s more inclusive,” Trudeau replied.
What happened next is what you’d expect if you are a person who is active on Twitter or watches cable news: People had a field day. Trudeau and his political correctness had gone too far this time! Trudeau corrected a woman! Fox News was on the case!
Trudeau later apologized and said he made a “dumb joke.”
The time Trudeau went to India
Going to India is not, in and of itself, scandalous. But Trudeau made a few missteps when he went there in February 2018 (a big month for Trudeau scandals). First, there were the Trudeau family outfits, which were made fun of by locals, who said the Trudeau clan was playing “fancy dress.”
Then there was the fact that a Sikh man convicted of attempted murder of an Indian politician was invited to dine with Trudeau in New Delhi (the invitation was rescinded, but the man, Jaspal Atwal, was also seen with Trudeau’s wife at a reception in Mumbai). A security report found “gaps” in the process of vetting events. And the whole thing cost more than initially disclosed by the government.
The time Trudeau addressed groping allegations
Last summer, a reporter asked Trudeau to address allegations that he’d groped a woman at a music festival 18 years before. Trudeau said that he “did not act inappropriately” but that he apologized to the woman “in the moment” and said, “I respect the fact that someone else might have experienced this differently.”