Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made his first official visit to the White House on Thursday, drawing comparisons both to President Obama and current Republican presidential frontrunner, Donald Trump.
While the U.S. is mired in an election season that has seen incredibly controversial and sharply conservative ideas gain traction, Trudeau stakes out some seriously progressive ground.
He’s An Outspoken Feminist
“It’s important to be here before you today to present to Canada a cabinet that looks like Canada,” Trudeau told reporters after unveiling the ministers he selected to form his cabinet of 15 men and 15 women last November.
When asked why he opted for a cabinet with gender parity, he offered this perfectly glib response: “Because its 2015.”
President Obama’s cabinet — although initially hailed for its diversity — lags behind Trudeau’s on the gender front. Only one-fourth of the 16 person cabinet in the United States are women.
At a town hall hosted by Huffington Post Canada on the occasion of International Women’s Day earlier this week, Trudeau affirmed the importance of gender parity.
“I myself am a feminist,” he said, “And I believe that we need to have pay equity and gender equality right across the board.”
He Champions Indigenous People
Gumistiyi: “The one that keeps trying.”
That’s the name that the Tsuut’ina First Nation gave to Trudeau earlier this month for his commitment to championing the rights and the historic role of Canada’s indigenous people.
“I commit to you that the Government of Canada will walk with you on a path of true reconciliation, in partnership and in friendship,” he promised in return. “I will not lose sight of that goal.”
In an emotional moment in December, Trudeau said that he would offer “true reconciliation” to indigenous Canadians who were sent to residential schools meant to strip them of their cultural heritage and ancestral languages.
He’s An LGBT Ally
Trudeau issued a posthumous pardon for Everett George Klippert, a man who was sent to prison as a dangerous sex offender after he told police that he was gay.
Klippert was strapped with four charges of gross indecency when he admitted to having consensual sexual relations with four men in 1965. After his homosexuality was deemed “incurable” by a state-appointed psychiatrist, he was sentenced to an indefinite term in prison where he remained until 1971. Klippert died in 1996.
“As Canadians, we know that protecting and promoting fundamental human rights must be an imperative for governments and individuals alike, and this includes gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation,” a spokesperson for Trudeau said in a statement about the pardon.
Trudeau has said he would attend Toronto’s Pride parade later this year, making him the first Canadian prime minister to do so. When asked if Obama would attend the Capital Pride Parade in Washington, DC, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said no such plans had been made.
“I have not heard of a presidential commitment like that,” Earnest said. “My guess is it would not be the first time that he’s marched in a Pride parade.”
He’s For Humanitarian Work, Not War
In February, Trudeau announced that the Canadian military would no longer carry out airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
A government statement about the decision to cease airstrikes said that Canadian forces “focus on training and advising local security forces to take their fight directly to [ISIS].”
The statement also said that the country would continue to support coalition partners and also help “address the protracted and tragic crises in the region” by focusing on the humanitarian needs of people displaced and affected by the war.
He Stands For Immigration
Trudeau himself met the first plane full of Syrian refugees to enter in Canada through the country’s #WelcomeRefugees policy which has already helped thousands of Syrians resettle.
“You are home,” he told them. “Welcome home.”
Trudeau helped to accommodate the beleaguered men, women, and children with warm winter clothes.
When asked if he felt Canada’s security would be threatened by its acceptance of 25,000 Syrian refugees, he told 60 Minutes’ Lara Logan that “being open and respectful to others” was a better way to assuage any hatred or hostilities than “layering on, you know, big walls and oppressive policies.”
His comments made reference to American Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, who has claimed that he will build a wall to keep undocumented Mexican migrants out of the United States — and do so at Mexico’s expense. His plan has been met with harsh words from former Mexican President Vicente Fox and resulted in a ban against him passed by the country’s legislature.
While the United States has committed to accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees in the 2016 fiscal year, only 955 have been resettled so far.