Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has begun his annual tour of town halls from coast to coast, which arrived in St. Catharines on January 15. Town halls give Canadians a chance to ask Trudeau questions regarding what they believe are key issues or concerns facing the country, and what his plans are for the year ahead.
Trudeau stood in front of about 2,000 people in the Ian Beddis Gymnasium at Brock University on Tuesday night, where he answered many questions covering a topics such as sexual harassment, Canada’s stance on foreign policies, and the state of climate change.
“We have a problem called climate change — which is real — it’s been free to pollute in our atmosphere for a very long time. If we put a price on pollution, we will have less of it,” said the Prime Minister. “In order to do that, we have to support ordinary families to make sure affordability for ordinary Canadians is at the heart of this. As we move forward, we’re investing in renewable energies, in developing greener technologies, and Canada should be part of leading the way. I’m committed to making sure Canadians are better off.”
In light of the legalization of marijuana this past fall, one community member asked Trudeau how he felt the legalization and marketing of marijuana will help prevent it from getting into the hands of children.
“It’s not about a new source of revenue for the government,” though Trudeau did acknowledge that may end up happening, he continued that the legalization is, “a reflection of a failure public policy.”
Trudeau asked the audience to raise their hands if they felt when they were in high school if it was easier to get their hands on a “joint” than it was to get their hands on a bottle of beer. The majority of the audience raised their hands.
“The death rate from alcohol every year far exceeds that of marijuana. We legalized it because the current system was not making it more difficult for young people to buy marijuana,” Trudeau said. “If we at least treat it like alcohol, you have to go to an official store and show identification that demonstrates you are of the legal age.”
The Prime Minister acknowledged that while that wouldn’t prevent all young people from getting their hands on the drug, it would make it more difficult.
“Every single dollar someone spends on legal marijuana is a dollar not going into the pockets of organized crime.”
Further topics at the town hall included the treatment of Indigenous people in the country. The Canadian government has always been in the spotlight for their mistreatment and disregard of the Indigenous peoples in Canada.
“For centuries, as a government, we failed to live up to the intent of the original treaties that were all about welcoming settlers onto this land,” Trudeau said. “Canada as a country failed to live up to that partnership in many ways; residential schools, legal systems. We felt it was time for reconciliation. It is not easy. The government used to do whatever they want, we now know this is wrong, and it is not the way to develop a country.”
A topic that has been a major focus over the last couple weeks at Brock is the University’s Sexual Violence policies. One student asked Trudeau about the sexual assault laws in Canada, and the lack of consequence sexual offenders receive when they are reported. Trudeau stated that while there is still a long way to go, he believes that what has always been shrugged off or accepted is now no longer accepted.
“Workplaces are changing, and it’s not just about the justice system. There is also a change that every organization needs to make sure that they are being accountable and changing not just the way they deal with these challenges, but the way they proactively take responsibility for them and engage with the kinds of transformations that we need,” Trudeau said. “It is wrong to make anyone feel belittled, unsafe, harassed or assaulted. It is the responsibility of every single one of us to stand up and speak out. There is still a long way we need to go, but through the strength, devotion, advocacy and courage of the men and women in this world we are on the right track.”
Brock and its community members began to lineup ahead of the town around 3:00 p.m., with doors opening at 5:00 p.m. The lineup of people hoping to attend the town hall started in the academic south hallway (west end of the university campus) and led out the doors towards the entrance of the new Goodman building (west of the Schmon Tower).
As other Trudeau town halls have witnessed over the course of his Canadian tour, there was a demonstration of protesters blocking the main entrance to Brock ahead of the town hall. Indigenous demonstrators have been standing up to the Canadian government in support of pipeline protesters.
The protest rerouted commuters and transit to the Glenridge Avenue entrance of the University.
Below are photographs from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s town hall at Brock University: