Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits the grave stone of Esther Bernard as he visits the Fort Canning park in Singapore, Thursday November 15, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Mixing business and family: Trudeau turns to Singapore ancestors to widen trade

Trudeau’s ancestor, Esther Bernard, born Farquhar (1796-1838) was the daughter of Major-General William Farquhar (1774-1839), the first British Resident and Commandant of Singapore.

Slowly strolling along a paved walkway, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looked around Fort Canning and came face-to-face with his history.

The brick walls lining the stairs on the park’s edges hold memorial stones of its historical residents, including Esther Bernard, one of Trudeau’s ancestors.

She was the daughter of one of Singapore’s most famous residents — William Farquhar.

Trudeau wasted no opportunity talking about his familial ties during his time in Singapore, hoping to parlay his personal history into diplomatic success in an area where trade is so often based on relationships.

The prime minister joked about how locals could call him cousin, and he referred to his high cheek bones and ability to tan dark.

On his first day in Singapore, Trudeau talked about visiting the city state with his father, saying he had “a proper appreciation of my family history.”

His grandmother had told stories about the family tree leading back to southeast Asia, which “caused us to trace down the fact that I am a direct descendant of William Farquhar, who is one of the founders of Singapore,” Trudeau told a gathering of business representatives on Tuesday.

Read more: Canada wants free trade deal with southeast Asian nations, Trudeau says

Read more: Trudeau lays down challenge to companies in bid to boost trade with Asia

In 1819, Farquhar became the first commandant of Singapore, and was given orders by British statesman Sir Stamford Raffles on how to build the city.

While Farquhar listened to some of the instructions, he didn’t follow all of them. He let the locals keep their gambling dens and sell opium among other decisions aimed at allowing some cultural practices to remain.

Annoyed, Raffles returned in 1822 and ousted Farquhar from his position.

Farquhar’s wife was Malaccan from Malaysia and their daughter, Esther, is related to Trudeau on his mother’s side. She had a grandson who immigrated to Canada, landing in British Columbia.

Speaking to university students before Thursday’s visit to Fort Canning, Trudeau said the details of his family history emerged when his mother took part in a television show that digs into family trees.

“It’s a story that, for me, doesn’t just highlight the connections between Canada and Singapore — it also highlights the advantages and the reality of diversity and multiculturalism,” he said.

“I wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for multiculturalism and I think that’s something that binds Singapore and Canada together.”

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

UPDATE: Fire above Sparwood no threat to community

Mayor David Wilks reported it may be due to an exposed coal seam

Conservative opposition critic tours through Kootenay riding on listening tour

Pierre Poilievre, the Tory finance critic, gathering local feedback on pandemic supports, recovery issues

EKC makes $5,000 donation to Elk Valley ultrasound campaign

The EKC challenged other businesses to help the campaign hit its $300,000 target

City of Fernie to extend pilot snow removal program

Councillors voted unanimously on Sep. 17 to extend the program due to a lack of data points and disruption due to the pandemic

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Most Read