Last month, a photo of a Canadian newspaper editorial from 2000 started circulating on Twitter; in it, the Creston Valley Advance accused Justin Trudeau, the then-28-year-old teacher and son of the former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, of “inappropriately ‘handing’” a woman reporter who he met at music festival sponsored by a Canadian beer company.
The photo, which one person shared on Twitter days before the G7 summit took place in Quebec, reveals that, at the time, Trudeau reportedly apologized for his behavior: “I’m sorry. If I had known you were reporting for a national paper, I never would have been so forward.” (According to the editorial, the reporter was on assignment for a national newspaper as well as the Advance and the Vancouver Sun.)
But when asked about the alleged groping on Sunday, July 1, the now-prime minister of Canada had very little to say about that day at the music festival.
From the Guardian:
“I remember that day in Creston well,” he told reporters. “I had a good day that day. I don’t remember any negative interactions that day at all.”
Valerie Bourne, the former publisher of the Advance, told the Guardian that she remembers that the reporter was “distressed” and “unsettled” because of the alleged incident. While the editorial does not go into detail about what exactly happened between Trudeau and the unnamed reporter, Bourne offered:
“It was a brief touch,” she said. “I would not classify it or qualify it as sexual assault.”
Brian Bell, the editor of the Advance at the time, said the touch was “definitely not welcome and definitely inappropriate,” and that he believed the reporter’s version of the events.
The author of the 2000 editorial found Trudeau’s apology ineffective, arguing that no one should have to deal with harassment, regardless of profession—but they did find there to be a prevalent dynamic evidenced in what the reporter claimed happened to her:
“It’s not a rare incident to have a young reporter, especially a female who is working for a small community newspaper, be considered an underling to their ‘more predominant’ associates and blatantly disrespected because of it. But shouldn’t the son of a former prime minister be aware of the rights and wrong that go along with public socializing? Didn’t he learn, through his vast experiences in public life, that groping a strange young woman isn’t in the handbook for proper etiquette, regardless of who she is, what her business is or where they are?
And what makes the fact that she was working for the [National] Post of any relevance?”
According to the Guardian, Bourne, the former Advance publisher, believes the reporter may have written the editorial herself. The only other reporter on staff at the time doesn’t remember anything about it.