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

Let the Games begin!

Team Alberta takes home gold and silver in speed skating on day one

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

Star-studded Opening Ceremony features athletes from across Canada

Athletes’ medals unveiled at the official kick-off of 2019 Canada Winter Games

Medals depict Central Alberta landscape and pay tribute to First Nations

WATCH: Canada Winter Games are finally here

Final leg of torch relay kicked off at Fort Normandeau

Red Deer man loses car after being caught twice driving with suspended licence

The Ponoka Integrated Traffic Unit ticketed the man in December and on Valentine’s Day

Mermen calendar targets ‘toxic masculinity,’ raises big money for charities

Newfoundland and Labrador Beard and Moustache Club gave a cheque for more than $202,000 to Violence Prevention NL

Team Alberta takes exciting victory in wheelchair basketball, remains undefeated

After three games in the tournament, Alberta is sitting in first place of its pool

UPDATED: ‘Violent’ B.C. man back in custody after Alberta arrest

Prince George man with ties to Vernon was being sought by police

After a week away, SNC-Lavalin questions await MPs returning to Parliament

Two have resigned already: Jody Wilson-Raybould was veterans affairs minister and Gerald Butts was Trudeau’s principal secretary

Chanel: Iconic couturier Karl Lagerfeld has died

He spent virtually his entire career at luxury labels catering to the very wealthy

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for public inquiry over SNC-Lavalin questions

Vancouver member of Parliament Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet last week

Body found after apparent house explosion in Calgary, police investigating

Sgt. Dwayne Lepchuk declined to say whose remains were found

Canadian airlines waiting for guidance from Ottawa over X gender option

Major U.S. airlines said they will change their process so passengers can identify themselves along non-binary lines

Deported B.C. man who came to Canada as a baby granted chance at return

Len Van Heest was deported to the Netherlands in 2017

Most Read