The Trudeau family history you didnt know: Singaporean blood

The Trudeau family history you didn\t know: \Singaporean blood\
Justin Trudeaus Official Home: Unfit for a Leader or Anyone Else
But there are governing genes on his mother Margaret's side of the family tree too: he just had to cross the Pacific Ocean to find their roots.

On Thursday afternoon in Singapore, Canada's current prime minister carved out some time during his trip to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit to make a personal visit to Fort Canning Park, a hilltop oasis in the middle of the city-state's central business district.

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In 1819, when the first British flag flew over the hill, the man who raised it over his residence — Maj.-Gen. William Farquhar — was Trudeau's great-great-great-great-great (that's five) grandfather.

The first British resident and governor — commandant, in the colonial language of the day — married a French-Malaccan woman, Antoinette Clement. (Malacca is a state in Malaysia.)

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One of their daughters, Esther, eventually had a grandson named Charles who moved to Penticton, B.C. and started a family.

Although the graves were moved to create the exotic park and botanical gardens on the site today, her burial stone, as well as two others from the original Farquhar family, are still on display on the grounds in front of what is now a cultural centre.

Trudeau was given a short tour of the grounds by Sharon Lim, an assistant curator for Singapore's National Museum who researched Trudeau's family history in British Columbia to sort out his Singaporean connection, and Wong Tuan Wah, the group director for the National Parks Board.

When he reached Esther Bernard's stone, Trudeau crouched silently for a few moments as multiple camera shutters captured the moment. 

Before leaving, he pulled out his phone and recorded a short message for his kids as a video souvenir of a place that's now part of their family history.

Trudeau had visited Singapore with his father in the '80s. But he didn't know about this family history at the time.

"This was a very touching moment for me," he said to the small group of media trailing him on his visit, "to appreciate all the criss-crossing, weaving links that make up each of our stories.

"It's just a nice moment for me to reflect on the connections and the paths that lead to Canada from the founding of Singapore."

During Trudeau's visit, he was presented with a plaque featuring a drawing from the collection originally commissioned by Farquhar to illustrate the area's natural history.

The first commandant "contributed quite a lot to this island," said Koh Poo Kiong, director of Fort Canning Park.

"Farquhar took charge of looking after the spice plantation … subsequently it morphed into the first botanic gardens," he said. 

Speaking to students at the National University of Singapore earlier in the day, Trudeau said his personal story highlighted the historical connections between Canada and Singapore — a useful calling card for a prime minister in a region where personal relationships are integral to political and diplomatic success.

"It also highlights the advantages and the reality of diversity and multiculturalism. I wouldn't exist if it wasn't for multiculturalism."

Trudeau told the students that Farquhar was banished from Singapore for getting too close to the locals and allowing things like gambling and other cultural traditions, which was frowned upon in the British colonial mindset of the day. He added that when his ancestor was removed, small boats filled the harbour, fondly bidding him goodbye.

Trudeau said he'd always known there was an Asian connection on his grandmother's side, but "it wasn't much talked about." Then in 2008, his mother's family history was researched for a television show about genealogy, and what they discovered "makes for a great history."

One of the audience members at the university told him he was "very good looking," eliciting loud laughter. 

"It's the Singaporean blood," he replied with a smile. "It's my high cheekbones, and I tan easily."

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OTTAWA — At Canadas official residence for its prime minister, security cameras keep silent watch over the fences, visitors pass through gates that can block truck bombs and a detail of uniformed Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers patrol day and night.

When Justin Trudeau became prime minister three years ago, he took a pass on moving his family into the official residence at 24 Sussex Drive, built in 1868 by an American-born lumber baron. Decades of neglect had turned Canadas top political address into its most famous home renovation project.

But no recent prime ministers have been willing to commit the tens of millions of dollars it would take to make the stone house habitable again. It would look as if they were spending money on themselves, a politically toxic step in Canada.

Mr. Trudeau, 46, who lived at 24 Sussex as a child when his father was prime minister, is no exception.

No prime minister wants to spend a penny of taxpayer dollars on upkeeping that house, Mr. Trudeau told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation earlier this year.

There was little criticism of Mr. Trudeaus decision to live with his wife and their three children in Rideau Cottage, a relatively modest, two-story red brick house behind Rideau Hall, the house of Canadas governor general who fulfills Queen Elizabeth IIs duties as head of state.

Thats because the official residences deteriorating condition is no secret to Canadians, with government reports documenting its decline for more than a decade.

The building systems at 24 Sussex have reached the point of imminent or actual failure, one report, by the National Capital Commission, the federal agency that manages official residences, found this year. It rated the residences condition as critical.

Its wiring, according to the report, has become a fire hazard; the boiler is obsolete; the exterior stonework is crumbling; and the plumbing blocks up regularly.

The building by a pool added by Mr. Trudeaus father is rotting, the report said, and air-conditioning comes from inefficient window units that could make it easy for intruders to slip in. Many of those windows need replacement anyway. Everywhere there is asbestos.

On top of all that, the house is ill-suited for official functions. Among the houses many deficiencies, the dining room is at the same time too large for a family and too small for state dinners, the report said.

The current cost estimate to deal with everything (excluding security upgrades): 38 million Canadian dollars, or $28.7 million.

By Canadian standards that is a vast amount of money for a single-family house — even after accounting for its exceptional views over the Ottawa River. And it has prompted something of a national debate over the fate of the current building and the role of the prime ministers house in Canada.

Sir John A. Macdonald, the first prime minister, lived a few doors down from 24 Sussex in a house now used by Britains diplomatic representative to Canada.

R.B. Bennett, a millionaire who was the Conservative prime minister during the height of the Great Depression, kept a 5,000-square-foot suite in the Château Laurier, a hotel adjacent to Parliament.

The federal government moved to expropriate 24 Sussex in 1943, when it was the last private residence on the street, otherwise occupied by embassies, government buildings and parks.

After years of legal wrangling, Louis St. Laurent, a Liberal, reluctantly moved into 24 Sussex in 1951 on the condition that he pay rent to minimize any hint he was freeloading.

Despite its condition and space limitations, prime ministers have regularly held important meetings and entertained at 24 Sussex, with larger parties often taking place on its expansive lawn.

Formal dinners for visiting heads of state are held at the more spacious Rideau Hall. But Mr. Trudeau has recalled rushing home from school as a child to meet Queen Elizabeth II for lunch at 24 Sussex when she visited Canada.

Proponents for fixing up the house, regardless of cost, are a mixed group. The host of one Canadian home renovation program suggested making its remodeling into a reality television show.

Paul Martin, a Liberal who was prime minister from 2003 to 2006, said the role of 24 Sussex in Canadas history merits its preservation.

But Mr. Martin added that his wife, Sheila, who spent more time at 24 Sussex than he did, has less fond memories. Her view is that the house had to be renovated from the bottom up, he said.

Canadas only female prime minister, Kim Campbell, who held the office for four months in 1993, suggests knocking it down.

Her view is held by other Canadians who say building an entirely new house would be cheaper than fixing up the old one. Supporters of designing a new home see a chance to showcase Canadian architecture and to highlight its indigenous heritage in a building that could also set a bar for environmental standards.

Is this not an opportunity for Canada to say something different? asked David Lieberman, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Toronto. By opting to update the current residence, we would be preserving a nostalgic past, a colonial past, he said.

Recent events have highlighted just how contentious any government spending on the prime ministers home life can be.

In Parliament this spring, the opposition Conservatives pounced on a government estimate that it cost 1,500 Canadian dollars, or about $1,100, to use government workers to assemble a new play structure for Mr. Trudeaus children at the prime ministers official country house, in a park north of Ottawa. (Mr. Trudeau paid the $5,600 for the structure itself out of his own pocket.)

In 1971, the government stopped charging the prime minister rent for lodging, but Mr. Trudeau pays for his food, internet service and a caregiver for his children.

Because the kitchen at Rideau Cottage is meant for a family, not a team of cooks, the kitchen staff for the prime minister still works at the official residence, and the Trudeau familys meals are driven across the street from 24 Sussex, a practice that has aroused indignation from the Conservatives (whose own party leader lives in an official residence reserved for the head of the opposition).

Mr. Martin, the former prime minister, said the best solution to the 24 Sussex problem would be for Mr. Trudeau to turn over all the decisions about its future to a group of nonpartisan experts.

I think its a good thing, he said. When you take a look at the ethical problems that occur around the world, I think the facts that this is something that a Canadian politician would shy away from is really a sign that Canadians do have their ethical priorities in shape.

An earlier version of this article misstated when Justin Trudeau became Canadas prime minister. He took office three years ago, not two years ago.