Convivium was a project of Cardus 2011‑2022, and is preserved here for archival purposes.
Defining Diversity DownwardDefining Diversity Downward

Defining Diversity Downward

Is it conceivable Prime Minister Trudeau doesn’t know the meaning of his own favourite D-word? Father Raymond de Souza delves into his dictionary to find out.

Raymond J. de Souza
3 minute read


So says an exasperated Vizzini, the Sicilian criminal mastermind in The Princess Bride, who repeats it every time his plots to bring down the noble Wesley are foiled.

After umpteen exclamations of “inconceivable” in the face of contrary facts, Vizzini’s partner in crime observes: “You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

That came to mind this week as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was widely denounced, from the chief of the Assembly of First Nations to the front page of the National Post, as being arrogant, rude, dismissive and smug at a Liberal Party fundraiser in Toronto on Wednesday night.

The emotive Trudeau, champion of feminism and Indigenous reconciliation, taunting a First Nations woman who was protesting government inaction on mercury contamination on her reserve? Inconceivable.

The scene at the $1500 per ticket gathering at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto had Trudeau on stage when a protestor approached the front of the room and unfurled a sign.

“Prime Minister Trudeau, people at Grassy Narrows are suffering from mercury poisoning,” she said.

“Thank you very much for your donation tonight. I really appreciate it,” Trudeau sarcastically retorted, as his security hustled her out.

The impeccably self-congratulatory progressive crowd, no doubt keen that Alberta oil companies always treat Indigenous officials with the utmost respect, was horrified. Actually, no. They applauded and laughed at the woman on the receiving end of the prime minister’s devastating wit. Inconceivable.

By the next morning Trudeau was in full apology mode, noting that he “always” treats people with great respect but in Toronto he had not done so. Much ritual denunciation followed, all of it richly deserved. 

What caught my ear though was what Trudeau had said immediately after the woman was taken away.

“And as we know,” he said. “The Liberal Party is filled with different perspectives and different opinions and we respect them all and our commitment to reconciliation continues to be strong and committed and we will continue to engage.”

At this another protester spoke up and got the same treatment from the prime minister: “Thank you, sir, for your donation to the Liberal Party of Canada.”

What’s that bit about the Liberal Party being filled with different perspectives and opinions?

Didn’t the prime minister say something similar about that recently? Yes, in response to a question about whether Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott would be allowed to remain in the Liberal caucus.

“We recognize that a diversity of perspectives, experiences, opinions, is extraordinarily important if we’re going to fully reflect the extraordinary diversity of Canadians,” Trudeau said. “We are pleased to have a diversity of voices in the Liberal Party.”

The prime minister does not know that “diversity of perspectives” and “different opinions” do not mean what he thinks they mean. 

His premiership is in crisis because the attorney general of Canada took a different opinion than he and his office did regarding the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. The attorney general supported the view of the director of public prosecutions. The prime minister, his principal secretary and the clerk of the privy council took the view of the legion of lobbyists that SNC-Lavalin had hired to plead their case. 

What a magnificent diversity of views! How splendid the different experiences being brought to bear!

However, it seemed that some diverse opinions were less magnificently splendid than others, and Wilson-Raybould was hustled out the door to make way for an attorney general who might bring to bear experiences a little more homogeneous with his fellow Liberal MP from Montreal.

But we ought not forget that this same government, at this time last year, had promulgated new rules for the Canada Summer Jobs Program. When it came to abortion and gay rights, there would be a rather more muted celebration of “diversity” and “different opinions.” 

Only giving fulsome assent to the Liberal extremism on abortion would do. If you disagreed, and refused to pretend that you did not for the sake of the cash on hand, you were excluded. Not much of the fabled “inclusivity” there.

And before that, when Trudeau was still in opposition, he banned all pro-life Liberals from being candidates for election in 2015. Such views would find no place in caucus that reflects the “extraordinary diversity of Canadians.”

Diversity of opinions does not mean what he thinks it does.

The national uproar is over Trudeau reverting to snowboarder sarcasm at a fundraiser. In his crowd, it is known as reveling in privilege. He told the woman, in effect, that she was so insignificant that the only way to get his attention was to pay for it, hence “thank you for your donation.” 

But the woman from Grassy Narrows should not feel too bad. After all, even the Prime Minister’s friends at SNC-Lavalin had to pay great sums to the Liberal party to get his attention.

The uproar, though, should not be as much over the sarcasm, but the apparently sincere statement afterwards that the prime minster believes his party to be one in which a diversity of views is welcome. 


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