Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaving the Trans Mountain pipeline’s Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee meeting on the Cheam reserve in Chilliwack on June 5, 2018. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

OPINION: Trudeau’s media snub in the Fraser Valley

Shouldn’t the PM be obliged to speak to members of a community he visits, at least via the media?

It’s a rare thing for a community of our size to get a visit from a Prime Minister.

So when we learned Justin Trudeau was coming to town, we cleared the decks, so to speak, to ensure we could cover his visit as closely as possible.

After a delayed arrival shrouded in heavy security, a short and secretive meeting excluding the public or the media, he whisked away without saying a word.

Nothing more than a toothy smile and a wave with his shirt-sleeve-rolled-up arm.

The question that immediately occurred to me as the door to the black Cadillac closed was: Does the democratically elected leader of our country not have some obligation to speak directly or at least indirectly to the people in a community he visits?

He can’t talk to everyone. He can’t be everywhere. He can’t even visit everywhere. It’s a big country. There’s a lot of us.

But that’s what the media is there for, to serve as a proxy for the public who have questions for him about, for example, using public funds to purchase a pipeline from a private company.

And other stuff, too.

I arrived at the Cheam reserve Tuesday to intense security. Police cars up on Highway 9. A pickup full of Mounties in full ERT gear atop the Cheam landfill.

Down at the Multiplex, literally dozens of cars parked out back for the dozens of police officers fulfilling various roles on scene.

Members of the media – TV, radio and print – were led into a boardroom, gear put on the floor so a German shepherd from the RCMP’s Police Dog Services could have a sniff.

Then, door shut, we waited, not allowed out until Trudeau arrived.

But before that, a group of protesters with signs walked down the road to the hall. There we were, like goldfish in a bowl, as the protesters gave speeches leaving us to film, photograph, and record from behind glass.

Then, finally, “his” arrival. But still we are trapped in that room, taking awkward photographs through angled glass with his back to us as he waves to protesters, corralled on the other side of the entrance.

Finally led to the main hall, cameras set up, Chief Ernie Crey makes some opening remarks, opening prayer from Pastor Andrew Victor, then Trudeau speaks.

Great, this is what we waited for…. exactly four minutes and 39 seconds of just what you’d expect Justin Trudeau to say on a reserve about a contentious issue: “collaboration,” “shared path,” “reconciliation,” “engagement,” “partnerships,” et cetera.

Then? Media kicked out so the committee can meet in private.

After, we milled about outside. About 10 members of the media, 40 protesters and as many police. We listening to aggrieved voices, scrummed with outspoken activists, and waited for Trudeau to come out and say a few words.

And then, that smile, that wave. Poof. He was gone.

For security purposes it’s a well oiled machine these Prime-Ministerial visits. It served a political purpose as he talks with Indigenous leaders, some opposed some in favour of the pipeline.

But with the public’s proxy ignored completely, I felt the visit missed something important.

Left to hear nothing directly from the Prime Minister, the media had little to share with the Canadian public.

Was that the point?

Maybe I’m naive – little ol’ community reporter that I am – but hungry for a good story with the leader of our country in town, I didn’t expect a one-on-one or even anything too meaty.

But he could have at least tossed us a bone.

• READ MORE: SLIDESHOW: Photos from Justin Trudeau’s brief visit to Chilliwack


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Two 23-year-old men die in separate Surrey motorcycle crashes in three days

One man died Thursday night after his motorcycle crashed on Highway 10, and another man died following a Tuesday crash

Take-home naloxone may be replacing 911 calls in Fraser Health area

Naloxone kits handed out up 29% over 2017, ambulance calls and emergency visits down 22-24%, deaths hold steady

334 brush and grass fires in Surrey since May 1

Surrey Fire Service says so far this month, there’s been at least 60

Renegades ‘02 undefeated through two days at softball nationals

White Rock ‘04 and ‘05 squads also at Canadian championships in Montreal

White Rock firefighters aid wildfire effort

Seaside department has sent three firefighters and one apparatus so far, with more set to deploy

Happy birthday Boler: An anniversary gathering of the cutest campers in Winnipeg

Hundreds of the unique trailers in Winnipeg to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Manitoba invention

Tim Hortons says its China expansion will include menu with congee, matcha

Coffee chain plans to open 1,500 stores in Asia over the next decade

How to help B.C. wildfire victims

Donations being taken by many organizations, BC Hydro waiving bills

5 to start your day

Mt. Hicks fire near Agassiz 15% contained, man dead in Surrey motorcycle incident and more

Whole city of Kimberley on an evacuation alert due to wildfires

Residents woke up Friday morning being told to get ready to leave any moment

Feds to allow charities to engage in political, but not partisan, activity

The plan is to allow charities to pursue political activities

Trump suggests Canada has been sidelined from latest NAFTA negotiations

Canadian officials have insisted they’re unfazed by being left out of the discussions

B.C. judge who cried during a victim statement to rule on recusing herself

The judge will decide if she’ll disqualify herself from sentencing a man for sexual assault

Photographer files complaint with police after alleged assault on the job

Toronto photographer says he was attacked while covering a protest

Most Read