By Brennan Sullivan
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke at the University of Chicago on Wednesday, Feb. 7. Trudeau spoke about the importance of U.S.-Canadian relations, NAFTA and his stance on immigration policies.
The event began with Trudeau speaking to the student body about his experience growing up with a prime minister as a father and how he ended up in the same position.
He explained that while he felt fortunate for his life of attending top-tier schools and family dinners with world leaders, he originally sought a different fate. Before being elected prime minister, Trudeau taught grades ranging from kindergarten to grade 12. He said teaching was his own way of having an impact on the world.
Trudeau said he got more involved in non-profit and activist work, and before he knew it, he was campaigning for his father’s old job. He said his motivation came from his parents who instilled in him that “you don’t define yourself from what you get from the world, you define yourself from what you have to offer for the world.”
Later, he was joined on stage by David Axelrod who led the discussion with a series of questions posed by both himself and students from the university. Axelrod began by asking Trudeau what the key was to maintaining a positive U.S.-Canadian relationship during this new and atypical U.S. administration.
“The secret of getting along is always to find common ground,” Trudeau said. “Our relationship is much bigger and deeper than the ideologies of whomever happens to be the prime minister of Canada, or whomever happens to occupy the White House. The relationship is bigger than either of us.”
Negotiations over NAFTA are currently underway between the respective parties. However, progress has been slow, partially due to the United States’ new found stance on trade policies under President Donald Trump.
In reference to the negotiations, the prime minister said that they are willing to work to modernize and improve the agreement. Trudeau said he is aware of how important a strong relationship with the U.S. is. However, he stressed that they will not allow an unfair, win-loss scenario just to “cut a deal.”
The Q&A concluded with a conversation on immigration policy, where Trudeau championed Canada’s growing migrant population. “There is no anti-immigration party… immigration has been good for us,” he said.
Canada has taken in about 40,000 refugees and offered programs to help assimilate them into their society, and there is a general consensus among the political spectrum for free and open borders.
“The people who come to our countries with nothing, from devastation, are the ones who are most passionate about working incredibly hard, not just for themselves and their families, but to build strong communities and give back to the country that gave their kids an opportunity for the future,” Trudeau said.