|Photo description: Justin Trudeau with Ruby and Sadie and me, take at Pride Day a couple years ago.|
I've met Justin Trudeau, briefly, twice over the last couple of years. As he is now fighting to become Canada's next Prime Minister, I wanted to write about those two meetings. The first was after Church on Church, which is a huge service held, yearly, by Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto. It is an event which a lot of community leaders attend. It's not uncommon to see leaders of both the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party sitting right up front.
This picture was taken shortly after the service ended. Mr. Trudeau was passing by in front of me and I called out to him, asking him if he could pause for a picture with Ruby and Sadie. Though he was being rushed along by those surrounding him, he heard me. Looked over at me, and then something odd happened. He didn't simply dismiss my request. As a disabled fat man, I'm used to being disregarded and unheard, so I was taken aback. He had to shake off those insisting on him rushing out. He came over and I began organizing the picture of him with the kids. He said, "Well, why aren't you going to be in the picture?" I mumbled something about needing to take the picture and he laughed and said, "I've got people who can help with that." With that he handed the camera to one of the people with him and knelt down beside me, put his arm around the back of my chair and, when Ruby and Sadie were in place, the shot was taken. I thanked him, he graciously thanked me for wanting the picture.
I know this is the kind of thing that politicians do. But there was a genuineness in the interaction that left me feeling like Mr. Trudeau was a different sort of guy. Not a different sort of politician, but a different sort of person, one who managed to see difference differently.
The next time I met him was the following Pride day. We were going up Ted Rogers Way towards the gathering point for groups who were organizing themselves to be in the parade. I was slowly making my way up the sidewalk to join my group. Behind me surged a group of people carrying Liberal Party signs and wearing Liberal Party tee shirts. They were clearly rushing. They flowed by me, making it difficult for me to navigate, in my larger than normal, power chair. I felt very in the way.
I looked up at one young and earnest face and apologized, as I do, both because I'm disabled and used to apology and because I'm Canadian and it's in my \DNA. A voice spoke behind me. "You don't need to apologize, we do." I looked back and saw that it was Mr. Trudeau. As he approached me he stated that it was they who were rushing by me, it was them making the sidewalk overcrowded, I nodded and said, "Well everyone is rushing right now." He said that that was gracious of me but people needed to be respectful of my right to space too.
My right to space?
"Who," I thought, "Is this guy?"
We let me answer my own question. After closely following the election and watching the debates. This is the guy I voted for.
Both because of the policies he has put forward and because of two brief moments when Mr. Trudeau just became a guy named Justin who had no difficulty relating to a guy named Dave.