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.

Just Posted

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 5: Recap

Highlights and results from day 5 at the All Native Tournament

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 6: Preview

Look ahead to all the action scheduled for Feb. 16 at the All Native Tournament

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 4: Recap

Results and highlights from day 4 at the 2019 All Native Basketball Tournament

All Native Basketball Tournament Day 3: Recap

Highlights from around Day 3 of the tournament

Longe sentenced for manslaughter in death of Malcom Tallio

Longe was originally charged with second degree murder

VIDEO: Historic night in Red Deer as 2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off

Star-studded Opening Ceremony features athletes from across Canada

B.C. couple attacked with acid, slashed with knife in Vietnam

Warning, graphic images: Man has burns on 80 per cent of his body, slashed with knife

Flying squirrels found to glow pink in the dark, including two from B.C.

Squirrels from Hope and Abbotsford were included in the biologists’ database

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

Names keep adding to vaccine petition started by B.C. mom

Maple Ridge mom started campaign to make vaccination a condition of attending school

Northern B.C. First Nation clan says ancient tools found at pipeline work site

Archeologists from the Smithsonian Institute estimate one of the stones found dates back up to 3500 years

Wilson-Raybould resignation stokes anger, frustration within veterans community

Liberals have had three veterans-affairs ministers — Kent Hehr, Seamus O’Regan and Wilson-Raybould

No Center of Gravity festival in Kelowna this summer: organizers

COG organizers said the hope is to return to the Okanagan in 2020

Most Read