Such is Canada’s current brand that the occasion of an internationally acclaimed activist’s address to Parliament should include references to the prime minister’s yoga abilities and tattoos.
“When I was coming here, everyone was telling me, like, ‘Shake the prime minister’s hand and let us know how he looks in reality,'” said 19-year-old Malala Yousafzai, deviating from her prepared text and drawing laughter from the assembled dignitaries and guests.
“And people were just so excited about meeting Trudeau. I don’t think anyone cared about the Canadian honorary citizenship.”
Seated together in the centre aisle of the House of Commons, Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau both laughed and sheepishly put their hands to their foreheads.
It is an accident of history that Yousafzai came to meet Prime Minister Trudeau. If not for the attack on Parliament Hill in October 2014, she would have accepted her honorary citizenship from Stephen Harper, who actually asked Parliament to bestow the honour a day before the shooting rampage.
No doubt she would have found nice things to say about the Conservative prime minister too, just different things. (There is little chance that Stephen Harper has a tattoo. And even less chance that, if he does, he would let that become public knowledge.)
But her appearance on Wednesday was another occasion to recognize Canada’s best intentions and recently celebrated actions.
And a reminder of how much more this country might do to lead the world.
Yousafzai praised the unity Canadians have shown in the wake of both the October 2014 attack and January’s deadly shooting at a mosque in Quebec — a multicultural commitment that is exemplified, she said, by this country’s welcoming of refugees.
“Your motto and your stand, ‘Welcome to Canada,’ is more than a headline or a hashtag,” said Yousafzai,…