Justin Trudeau paused. Above his black mask, the famous dark eyes flitted around the crowd.
It was Friday, and thousands had gathered for a Parliament Hill protest against racism. They stood close together, the protestors did, trying to get a glimpse of Trudeau, who was surrounded by a phalanx of security.
Trudeau spotted cameras to his left, and pointed in his direction. Satisfied, he slowly eased to one knee and bowed his head.
His only black cabinet minister, Ahmed Hussen, had been walking a few paces behind Trudeau. He got down on one knee, too.
They remained like that for eight minutes or so, the amount of time it took a Minneapolis police officer to murder the African-American named George Floyd.
The cameras recorded every moment.
Hypocrisy, as always, is Justin Trudeau’s fatal flaw. Every politician becomes a hypocrite, if they remain in public life too long.
But Justin Trudeau has taken hypocrisy to a different level entirely. His hypocrisies are so big, so monumental, so glaring, they practically have their own weather system. They have their own time zone.
He said he wanted more women in public life, and then he brutalized and exiled the two smartest women in his cabinet – Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott – simply because they wouldn’t do what he wanted them to. Which was break the law.
He said he wanted to emancipate Canada’s indigenous peoples – and then he defamed and demeaned the aforementioned Wilson-Raybould, a proud Indigenous leader. He sneered “thanks for your donation” to another woman, one who simply wanted him to make good on his promise to end the mercury poisoning at Grassy Narrows First Nation.
He said he objected to racism in the Conservative Party – and then tapes and photos emerged, showing Trudeau wearing racist blackface at least three times. Only when he was caught did he apologize.
He said he would return integrity and transparency to public life – and then he secretly took expensive gifts from a wealthy lobbyist. He repeatedly tried to stop the criminal prosecution of a big Quebec-based donor to his Liberal Party.
And on and on. Hypocrisy, thine name is Trudeau.
But the election result seemed to humble him. He got fewer votes than his nearest competitor. He lost his Parliamentary majority. He got quieter. He got a bit somber. The change suited him.
Then the pandemic hit, upending everyone’s life. Trudeau’s performance wasn’t flawless. He had to retreat when a plan to dramatically increase his powers became a controversy. He was criticized for traveling to be with his family, across a provincial border.
But, in the first few weeks of the pandemic, he didn’t do badly. He sounded sincere. He sounded concerned about Canadians. He came up with some good policies to help them.
And, over and over and over, he urged people to stay at home and maintain social distancing. He said – over and over and over – that nothing was as important as that.
On April 1 – April Fool’s Day – this is what Justin Trudeau said: “The biggest variable in shaping projections is you and your behaviour. While many of you are staying home and limiting grocery trips, many are not. We must do everything we can today and tomorrow to set us on the right path for next week and the week after.”
Reporters asked him why he hadn’t released more coronavirus data, like Doug Ford had done.
Trudeau responded: “Highlighting the range isn’t as important as getting an analysis of what we’re likely to face. It’s all directly linked to how people behave today. That’s why it’s so important that people stay home and continue with social distancing and stay two metres apart and minimize movement so we can get through this in the best way possible.”
See that? “Stay home and continue with social distancing and stay two meters apart.” He said that sort of thing a lot.
And then he showed up a gathering of thousands of people. Him, Prime Minister Coronavirus Blackface.
At times like this, it is fair to wonder what Justin Trudeau is thinking. Does he think he should take a knee for black people, after having been caught repeatedly defaming them? Does he think he should use a crowd of people as a photo op, after having told them all to “stay home and continue with social distancing and stay two meters apart”?
Does he think about how profoundly, irretrievably hypocritical he looks? Does he even think at all?
On the very day that Justin Trudeau had his Black Lives Matter For Photo-Ops, I went to see my mother in Toronto. She was behind a fence, wearing a mask. I have not been able to hug her for three months. She has not been able to hug any of us. She is often sad and lonely.
My mother likes Justin Trudeau, but not on this day. She asked me if I had seen Trudeau at the protest. I nodded.
“I am so disappointed in him,” she said. “Why should young people listen to him now? He looks like a hypocrite.”
And that is what he will always be, too.