Pierre Trudeau’s 1971 Ceylon visit still evokes memories (Video)

CTV’s Anne Marie Mediwake shows Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a photograph of her at the Saskatchewan border with her father.

CTV’s Anne Marie Mediwake shows Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a photograph of her at the Saskatchewan border with her father.


Trudeau’s visit inspired Mediwake’s parents to select Canada for migration

VIDEO- Anne-Marie Mediwake shares her story migrating from Sri Lanka to Canada, while interviewing the Prime Minister.

Anne Marie Mediwake, Sri Lankan-born co-host of CTV’s Your Morning recently interviewed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of Canada’s 150th anniversary. Mediwake told the Prime Minister, her parents decided to select Canada as the destination to migrate upon hearing former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau speak during his 1971 visit to Sri Lanka.

It was a story that Mediwake’s father had always recalled, and she shared the story with the current Prime Minister while interviewing him at his office in Ottawa.

“You may not remember this, but your dad took a trip to Sri Lanka (which was Ceylon at the time) in the 70s. My parents were there at the time, and were looking to leave the island. They heard your dad speak, and they decided to pick Canada because of that visit,” Mediwake said.

Anne Marie Mediwake interviewed PM Justin Trudeau ahead of Canada’s 150th Anniversary. (Picture CTV/Your Morning)

“Fast forward a couple of years, and this is me at the Saskatchewan border,” she said while showing a picture to the prime minister.

Choosing Canada vs Canadian by birth default

Mediwake says hundreds of people share similar stories to hers, living part of the legacy created by former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

“I am jealous each time I meet someone who selected Canada, instead of being Canada by default (by birth). It is an amazing statement of attachment to Canada,” the Prime Minister said.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau was Prime Minister of Canada 1968-1979 and 1979-1984. (Picture By National Archives Canada/ Duncan Cameron)

“I always laugh at people, not many of them, who are intolerant and say, go back to your own country. You chose this country, it is more your country than others, because we take it for granted and default into this place,” he added.

My first elephant ride was in Sri Lanka

Renowned Canadian photographer covered 1971 trip

Renowned Canadian photojournalist Peter Bregg covered much of the Trudeau era, capturing some of the most iconic images of the former Prime Minister including his 1971 visit to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He shared some of his memories with The Sri Lanka Reporter recently.

“When we stayed at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo it was like something out of a movie, the look and feel of it, almost Victorian,” Bregg said.

Bregg recalls travel assignments back in the 70s, when much of the old-world charms were still evident.
In Kandy, it was Bregg’s first time riding an elephant, he got on the jumbo, shortly after the Prime Minister finished his own ride.

“I was curious, so I got on board, and was amazed how big it was; it was like sitting on top of the roof of a house,” Bregg said.
In Sigiriya, Bregg had a more intimate chance to cover the Prime Minister. He was perhaps the only journalist who climbed the rock fortress along with Trudeau and Ceylonese and Canadian officials.

Peter Bregg, covered Trudeau’s 1971 trip to Ceylon, where he climbed Sigiriya rock fortess and rode elephants whith the former Prime Minister. Bregg is seen here with the 2014 Canadian Journalism Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. (Picture by CJF/CNW)

“When I got to the top of Sigiriya, Trudeau looked over and asked me, where is the rest of the press? I told him, I am the only one under 30. He gave me a sort of playful hit on the shoulder; he was only 51 at the time.”

During the climb of Sigiriya in the sweltering heat, Bregg captured the Prime Minister in a relaxed mood sitting inside the caves, wearing a bandana on his head, unbuttoned shirt, and displaying a necklace with a peace symbol.

That photo was displayed in a commutative edition of Macleans magazine following Trudeau’s death in 2000.
Trudeau was never afraid to dress apart, from wearing a cape to a grey cup football game or canoeing in buckskin jacket, Bregg recalls.

Never shy to be in the moment

Canadian build Disel locomotive rolls by near Colombo suburb Mt. Lavaina in the 1950s. (Candian Archvies Photo)

“When he travelled, he wasn’t shy about being in the moment. He enjoyed being respectful to the people hosting him.” he said.
Over the past four decades, internationally-renowned photojournalist Peter Bregg has travelled to more than 70 countries and captured some of the world’s most compelling stories with his camera, according to Ryerson University.

Prior to his recent post as photo editor at HELLO! Magazine, Mr. Bregg served as chief photographer at Maclean’s for 17 years. He has also worked as a photographer and editor with the Canadian Press and the Associated Press in London, New York, and Washington, DC, and was the official photographer to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1984-85, his bio further adds.
His assignments have included eight Olympic Games, Stanley Cups, World Series, Presidential trips, Vietnam in 1973, the Iran hostage crisis in 1979-80, and the imposition of martial law on the Solidarity movement in Poland in 1981. He was also in New York to cover the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001.

His is the recipient of the World Press Photo Award, NPPA Regional Photographer of the Year, Canadian Press Photo of the Year, Eastern Canada News Photographers Association Awards, a Canadian National Newspaper Award, White House News Photographers Association and recently, the Order of Canada.

VIDEO- The Prime Minister traveled to Kandy in a train pulled by Canadian built General Motors M2 Diesel locomotive. The locomotives were sent to Sri Lanka under the Colombo Plan in the 1950s, with some still in use today.

COLOMBO (Reuter) 1971– Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau road an elephant and received a vocal salute from the animal’s peers.
He spent a day at Kandy, 72 miles from Colombo. Mr. Trudeau took off his coat and as Rajah the elephant knelt down so that he could get on. The Prime Minister was a bit taken aback by the chorus of trumpeting with which herd of 10 elephants greeting him.

Mr. Trudeau pampered Rajah with pineapples and bananas a welcome change from a diet of leaves.
At the King’s Pavilion residence of the governor general in Kandy Mr. Trudeau watched tappers shinny up coconut and palmyra trees to bring down fruit. Ceylonese Minister of Agriculture and Lands Hector Kobbekaduwa tasted the juice from the fruit before recommending it.

Mr. Trudeau later tried the fermented juice of both coconut and Palmyra and said the combination tasted like beer and was very good. The Prime Minister and his party traveled to Kandy on board a special train pulled by diesel engine given to Ceylon by Canada.

Later he visited the temple of the tooth relic, where a tooth supposed to be a relic of Buddha is enshrined. He also called on the high priests of the two main Buddhist sects at their temples.
During the afternoon, he went by car to Sigiriya to climb the rock fortress built in the fifth century by King Kasyapa to see the frescoes. The Canadian Prime Minister Mr. Trudeau was on a four-day visit to Ceylon.

The Sri Lanka Reporter marks the occassion

Srimal Abeyewardene Editor of The Sri Lanka Reporter joined by his wife Malkanthie presented the page to Ahmed Jawad High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to Canada in Ottawa.

The Sri Lanka Reporter recently handed over a preserved page from its May 2003 issue, which contained coverage of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s visit to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to the Sri Lanka High Commission in Ottawa.
The page contained a report from 1971, including the iconic photo of Trudeau climbing the Sigiriya rock fortress taken by then Canadian Press photographer Peter Bregg.