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

‘Manny’s Motel’ badly damaged by fire Jan. 15

Police say 40 Ave. closed due to fire, use alternate route

From courthouse to council’s house

Old courthouse had long history before becoming City Hall

Revenue Canada, RCMP don’t accept Bitcoin: police

RCMP issue Bitcoin warning posters

Writer says Alberta highway system falling apart

Highways in ‘deplorable’ condition: writer

County council denies request for parking lot

Buck Lake groups are welcome to raise funds and return to council

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

RCMP Major Crimes Unit lays charges in Stettler death

Nicholas Climb Johnson, 32, of Stettler is charged with second degree murder in the death of his father

Metis nations ask Ottawa to negotiate directly with them, not national body

Three provincial Metis nations will work through the national council until after the federal government releases its 2020 budget

Canada to give $25,000 to families of each Canadian who died in Iran plane crash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Canada still expects Iran to compensate victims

Oil and gas industry applauds top court’s dismissal of B.C.’s Trans Mountain case

The high court’s ruling Thursday removes one of the remaining obstacles for the project

Sylvan Lake RCMP seek assistance in locating missing male

Mark Crier, 17, was last seen in Sylvan Lake on Jan. 13

UPDATE: Supreme Court dismisses B.C.’s appeal in Trans Mountain pipeline case

Judges decide whether B.C.’s power to protect environment can include impeding a federal project

Alberta says universities over-budget; need to freeze travel, hiring, hosting

Demetrios Nicolaides says spending is not meeting expectations

Over 16,000 people nabbed by RCMP between border crossings in 2019

In 2019, 63,830 claims were filed, up from 55,040 in 2018

Most Read