On Jan. 25, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the University of Saskatchewan to answer questions from Saskatoon citizens. The crowd, including a large number of university students, gathered to express their concerns with issues such as the carbon tax and relations with Donald Trump and to protest the implementation of new policies.
University President Peter Stoicheff welcomed everyone to the university and the minister of public safety, Ralph Goodale, introduced the prime minister to the crowd. Trudeau has been touring Canada for the past two weeks, making various public appearances — including the town hall at the U of S, which attracted over 500 people — to discuss issues important to Canadian citizens.
His night began with a media session, which gave media the time to ask questions for viewers at home, with topics ranging from the keystone pipeline to NAFTA deals. Trudeau then moved to the Dubé Theatre in the Health Sciences Building where he commenced the town hall, addressing a crowd of 500 in the theatre and about 120 in the overflow room.
“Thank you for the warm welcome onto traditional Treaty Six territory; it is a real pleasure to be here,” Trudeau said.
Many students were present in the crowd, some to ask questions and some to voice their opinions and to protest incoming policies. Students from the College of Agriculture held signs to protest Trudeau’s carbon tax.
“Dear Mr. PM: we may be ‘Brad’s Farmers’ but we put the food on your plate,” one sign read.
One international student asked if Trudeau will resume international and political ties with his home country, Iran. In response, Trudeau explained that the Canadian government is slowly moving forwards on this issue.
“There are many ways of looking at international relations and how Canada should engage with the world, and I have the opinion that engaging with conversations — even with people you disagree with — is better than not talking with people you disagree with. We continue to have serious concerns surrounding the Iranian government, so we are cautiously re-establishing relations in a way that does not ease off the concerns we have with human rights,” Trudeau said.
A student from the College of Education also asked if the federal government plans to change post-secondary education systems, even though education falls under the jurisdiction of provincial governments. Trudeau responded, affirming the importance of such education.
“The way we look at education, the way we look at skills training, the way we look at post-secondary education needs to keep up with the times. The world is rapidly changing and we need to give our citizens the tools to cope with that. We need to make sure young people in universities have access to top quality post-secondary educations,” Trudeau said.
Calling attention to Bell Let’s Talk day, the last questioner of the night asked if the government has plans to increase mental health awareness in Canada. Trudeau responded from personal experience.
“It should not require courage to stand up and ask a question like that. There’s still a stigma around health issues. Too many people do not talk about them out loud. I am incredibly proud of my mom who has been sharing her life-long struggles with mental health. Statistics say that one in five Canadians struggle with mental health issues, which means five in five Canadians know someone who struggle with mental health issues. We need to do a lot more supporting in creating communities to address the fact that this is a massive issue,” he said.
Although Trudeau was asked difficult questions and protesters were present, he received a standing ovation on entering and exiting the Dubé Theatre, and he wrapped up by thanking the audience.
“It was a real pleasure to be here Saskatoon and I look forward to seeing you all soon.”
Photo: Jeremy Britz / Photo Editor