On Wednesday October 21, Memorial University President Vianne Timmons hosted an online Town Hall meeting welcoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and featuring twenty randomly selected members of the Memorial University community. The Honourable Seamus O’Regan introduced the Prime Minister following President Timmons’ acknowledgement of rights and opening statements.
Over six-hundred members of the community registered for their chance to share screen time with the Prime Minister, but time would only permit for fifteen of the lucky twenty participants to share their concerns. The questions were not vetted beforehand in true town hall style and the topics covered throughout the conversation hour were wide-ranged and timely. Participants’ backgrounds ranged from Memorial undergraduate and international students, faculty, and staff members.
Many people were faced with concerns that have been growing amongst the post-secondary community in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Questions were fielded about funding options for international students, the availability of hands-on training in the workforce, increased public health funding and the financial stability of the tourism industry in Canada. Trudeau answered each question with tact, but most notable was when he was asked about what the hardest thing was about being Prime Minister during the pandemic. His answer? Knowing that even though he can try and do everything right, Canadians are still hurting every day. He acknowledged the challenges of families and friends being separated for the need of safety, and the general disconnect many people are feeling from others.
Furthermore, questions were also asked about different social issues that are also currently ongoing on the Canadian and world stages. Questions were asked about the overtness of racism that is seemingly becoming more and more common in this country. Speaking specifically about those of Chinese descent, and further expanding following a separate question on the handling of the lobster fishery crisis currently happening in Nova Scotia, Justin Trudeau replied that there is no fast and easy answer. The government has a role to play, especially regarding the laws surrounding the fisheries, but so does every Canadian. He encouraged those to consider others and how they can also stand against discrimination and create a future Canada for everyone.
However, there was one question that is near and dear to the Memorial University community’s hearts – is there a way for the Prime Minister to intervene and restart the search for the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science Dean’s son Jordan, who went missing during a hiking expedition in British Columbia on Thanksgiving. This is particularly sensitive to the Prime Minister, whose brother, Michel Trudeau, was killed in an avalanche while traversing Kokanee Glacier Park in 1998. Further reports since the town hall meeting have reported that the search is now on-going due to good weather.
Overall, the reception of the evening was informative and well-natured. In an event that is the first of its kind at Memorial University, it stands to show how the current pandemic is making people reinvent how we are communicating and connecting with one another.
To watch the recorded town hall meeting follow the link below: