While in Singapore to talk business and trade at the margins of the ASEAN and East Asia summits, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took some personal time to visit Fort Canning, specifically to pay respects to this great-great-great-great grandmother Esther Bernard, who was the daughter of the first British Resident and Commandant of Singapore, Major-General William Farquhar.
Mrs Bernard’s mother was of Malaysian decent and PM Trudeau is her descendant on his mother’s side. One of Mrs Bernard’s grandson had immigrated to Canada where he set up roots, leading to Canada’s current leader.
At Fort Canning in Singapore, a plaque bears the names of Mrs Bernard among about 400 other tombstones of people who had lived in the area during the 19th century.
PM Trudeau said, “"It was a very touching moment to see the history of my family, to appreciate all the criss-crossing, weaving links that make up each of our stories, and it's a nice moment for me to reflect on the connections and the paths that led to Canada from the founding of Singapore.”
While there, he also took a selfie with the plaque. “I promised my kids”, he said with a smile.
During a dialogue session with some NUS students yesterday, Mr Trudeau said that he found out about this sliver of family history when his mother took part in a television show that researched family trees. In a separate conversation, he had also mentioned hearing stories about his family tree going back to Southeast Asia as told by his grandmother.
NPR shared some photos of the Prime Minister’s visit on their Facebook page