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Trudeau Shuffles Cabinet

In anticipation of the federal election in the fall, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffled his Cabinet, moving Jody Wilson-Raybould from justice to veterans affairs, and naming Jane Philpott President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government. Trudeau called Philpott a “natural choice” for her new role and attempted to dispel the notion that Wilson-Raybould’s move was a demotion, saying, “She is extraordinarily capable of delivering on this file that is one of the core delivery mandates that the federal government has.”

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Justin Trudeau and Liberal Party Win Minority Government

Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party won re-election with a minority government, despite losing 20 seats for a total of 157. They also secured the lowest ever share of the popular vote (33 per cent) by a victorious party in a federal election. Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives received 34 per cent of the popular vote and increased their seat count from 95 to 121. The Bloc Québécois regained official party status with 32 seats, while the NDP fell from 39 seats to 24 and the Green Party increased their seat total from two to three. Jody Wilson-Raybould was the lone independent. The Liberal victory also breathed new life into the Western separatist movement, as the Conservatives’ loss left many in Alberta and Saskatchewan feeling disgruntled and alienated.

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Federal Government Apologizes for MS St. Louis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a formal apology in the House of Commons for the government’s decision in 1939 to turn away 907 Jewish refugees aboard the MS St. Louis, 254 of whom eventually died in the Holocaust. Noting Canada’s anti-semitic immigration policies at the time, Trudeau said, “We apologize to the 907 German Jews aboard the MS St. Louis, as well as their families. We are sorry for the callousness of Canada’s response. And we are sorry for not apologizing sooner.” 

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Pictures and Video Surface of Justin Trudeau in Blackface

In the midst of a federal election campaign, Time magazine published a photo from the 2001 yearbook of Vancouver’s West Point Grey Academy showing a then-29-year-old Justin Trudeau with dark makeup on his face, neck and hands as part of an “Arabian Nights” costume. Trudeau told assembled media that “It’s something that I didn’t realize was racist at the time, but now I recognize it was something racist to do and I regret.” He also confessed to wearing blackface makeup when he sang Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” in a talent show as a high school student. A video surfaced of a third, undated instance of Trudeau in blackface. He admitted that he could not rule out the possibility of other instances.

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Seven Syrian Children Die in Halifax House Fire

The seven children of Ebraheim and Kawthar Barho, Syrian refugees who immigrated to Canada in 2017, were killed in an early morning house fire in Halifax’s Spryfield area. The children’s ages ranged from four months to 15 years. Halifax deputy fire chief Dave Meldrum called the death toll “the largest loss that we have in our memory.” A vigil held the next day was attended by hundreds of people, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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Justin Trudeau Apologizes for Mistreatment of Inuit with Tuberculosis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized to Inuit for the federal government’s policy on tuberculosis in the mid-20th century, calling it “colonial” and “purposeful.” “For too long,” he said, “the government’s relationship with Inuit was one of double standards, and of unfair, unequal treatment. Canada must carry that guilt and that shame.” The apology, made in Iqaluit, was part of the Nanilavut initiative, which will assist Inuit in finding gravesites of family members. “We are sorry for forcing you from your families, for not showing you the respect and care you deserved,” Trudeau said. “The racism and discrimination that Inuit faced, was, and always will be, unacceptable.”

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Court Ruling Halts Expansion of Trans Mountain Pipeline

In a unanimous decision, the Federal Court of Appeal quashed approval of the $9.3-billion pipeline expansion on the grounds that First Nations in the area had not been adequately consulted and the impact of tanker traffic on endangered killer whales had not been considered. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote in a tweet that, “the federal government stands by the TMX expansion project and will ensure it moves forward in the right way."

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Jody Wilson-Raybould Resigns from Cabinet Amid SNC-Lavalin Scandal

Jody Wilson-Raybould, who had been Justice Minister until a Cabinet shuffle on 14 January, resigned from Cabinet days after news broke that the Prime Minister’s Office allegedly pressured her to help Quebec construction firm SNC-Lavalin avoid facing criminal prosecution. In the wake of the news, Justin Trudeau’s principal secretary Gerald Butts resigned on 18 February and a federal hearing on the issue was held beginning on 20 February. In her testimony to the hearing on 27 February, Wilson-Raybould claimed that almost a dozen senior government officials made a “sustained effort” to convince her to drop charges against SNC-Lavalin. Trudeau disagreed with her recollection of events and claimed that he and his staff “always acted appropriately and professionally” on the matter.

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Justin Trudeau

Justin Pierre James Trudeau, PC, 23rd prime minister of Canada 2015–present, teacher, public issues advocate (born 25 December 1971 in Ottawa, ON). The son of Pierre Trudeau, the former prime minister, Justin has repeatedly defied expectations. In 2007, he won the Liberal nomination in the Montréal riding of Papineau, beating the establishment’s candidate. A year later, he was elected to the House of Commons, confounding pundits who insisted the Trudeau name was political poison among francophone voters. After winning the Liberal Party leadership in 2013, Trudeau propelled the party from third place to first in the House, becoming prime minister at the head of a majority government in 2015. Although Trudeau’s Liberals lost support in the 2019 election, they won enough seats to form a minority government.

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Jane Philpott Resigns from Cabinet over SNC-Lavalin Scandal

Liberal MP Jane Philpott resigned from her Cabinet position of president of the Treasury Board and minister of digital government. She cited “the evidence of efforts by politicians and/or officials to pressure the former attorney general [Jody Wilson-Raybould] to intervene in the criminal case involving SNC-Lavalin… Sadly, I have lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised.”

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Jagmeet Singh Wins Burnaby South Byelection

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh secured a seat in the House of Commons by winning a byelection in Burnaby South with 39 per cent of the vote, besting Liberal candidate Richard T. Lee’s (26 per cent) and Conservative candidate Jay Shin (22 per cent). Singh had accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of delaying the hotly contested election, which Singh needed to win in order to lead his party from within Parliament.

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Justin Trudeau Violated Conflict of Interest Act in SNC-Lavalin Case, Ethics Commissioner Finds

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion found that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s actions in the SNC-Lavalin case violated section nine of the federal Conflict of Interest Act, which prohibits a public official from using their influence to benefit a third party. Dion found that Trudeau, both directly and through his staff, subjected then-Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to “veiled threats” that were “consistent and sustained,” pressuring her to defer the prosecution of Montreal-based construction and engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

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Cree Leader Chief Poundmaker Exonerated

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Poundmaker Cree Nation in Saskatchewan to officially exonerate Chief Poundmaker for the crime of treason-felony during the North-West Rebellion of 1885. “In 1885, Chief Poundmaker was treated as a criminal and a traitor,” Trudeau said. “In 2019, we recognize the truth. Our government acknowledges that Chief Poundmaker was a peacemaker who never stopped fighting for peace. A leader who, time and time again, sought to prevent further loss of life in the growing conflict in the Prairies.” Trudeau’s statement of exoneration included a formal apology “on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians.”

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Ottawa Declares Climate Emergency and Green-lights Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion

The Trudeau government passed a motion in the House of Commons declaring “that Canada is in a national climate emergency which requires, as a response, that Canada commit to meeting its national emissions target under the Paris Agreement.” The next day, 18 June, the government announced it had given a second green light to expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline. The first green light had been rejected by the Federal Court of Appeal for failing to properly consult with Indigenous peoples. The two announcements were widely criticized for being contradictory and at odds with each other.