Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been gifted the gift of his own likeness some 17 times since becoming prime minister, including once by the president of China.
The portraits and photos, along with a myriad of Star Wars vases, wine bottles and paraphernalia, are among more than 400 gifts worth more than $200 that Trudeau declared to the Federal Commissioner for ethics since the end of 2015.
Among the depictions of “myself,” as commonly described in Trudeau’s revelations, are a seal portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping and a goatskin painting donated by Abiy Ahmed Ali, Ethiopia’s prime minister.
There is also a 3D crystal collage of Trudeau and former US President Barack Obama, as well as cutouts of him and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, both donated by Canadian artists.
The Prime Minister’s Office, when questioned, did not specifically address the question of what happens to all these images of Trudeau. For example, are there any – like the oil painting titled “Happy Moments” – hanging in his residence at Rideau Cottage? They simply said that some gifts are kept or stored while others are given away or confiscated.
Roy Norton, chief of protocol at Global Affairs Canada from 2016 to 2019, told The Canadian Press that he saw nothing in the portrait trend other than a desire “to be more personal and less expensive”.
For the same purpose, Norton said in an interview, Canada’s protocol office would try to match gifts given by Trudeau to the tastes of the recipient.
Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel was a Bach fan so received a box set of concertos performed by Glenn Gould, he said, while one of Trudeau’s gifts to former US President Donald Trump was a 1980s photograph of Trump with Pierre Elliott Trudeau in New York. .
“Trump likes pictures of himself, so this was a gift that was apparently very well received,” Norton said. The president told the media at the time: “What a beautiful picture.”
Norton explained that gift exchanges are a highly orchestrated bureaucratic affair, adding that Canadian prime ministers would prefer not to receive any gifts because of the potential for negative attention.
“No leader of a democratic country is interested in being compromised or spending a fraction of the news cycle defending a gift received or a gift given,” he said.
Trudeau has received 110 gifts from heads of state or government of other countries since becoming prime minister, according to an analysis of public records, with a significant drop during the pandemic as travel has become much less frequent.
King Abdullah II of Jordan was the most generous of foreign officials, presenting 10 gifts to Trudeau, ranging from a handmade leather saddle to “sculptural plant containers” to jars of honey. The king even had a box of skincare products dropped off for Trudeau during a personal visit to Canada last year, during which the prime minister’s office said the two did not meet.
French President Emmanuel Macron came second with seven gifts for the prime minister, including a limited-edition Star Wars X-wing pen – a gift perhaps surpassed by Obama’s 2016 offer of a script for the film “The Force Awakens”, signed by director JJ Abrams.
More than 140 gifts Trudeau said were actually for his wife or their children, such as ride-on scooters and stuffed toys from Bo “The First Dog” given by Obama.
And several dozen consisted of an “introduction to” various apparel, accessory, and jewelry designers, such as a pair of sparring gloves donated by Rival Boxing Gear in 2018. Still others were loot bags containing various items of brand, like a Jack Daniel’s t-shirt. and hoodie offered with a bottle of whiskey.
Trudeau had to give up 20 gifts over the past few years, including three paintings of himself, an Arab cape and a Seiko watch from the Japanese prime minister, because they were worth more than $1,000.
He reimbursed part of the cost of two gifts so he could keep them: an electric bicycle donated by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in 2016 and an engraving by Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook of the president of Nunavik Tunngavik Inc. in 2017. He also received a Huawei Mate 10 Pro Android phone from Li in 2017.
Lest Chinese electronics arouse suspicion, Norton said the RCMP scans everything the prime minister receives and sometimes even dismantles items for anything incriminating. And a spokeswoman for Trudeau said any gifts sent to him were screened by security.
Ethical disclosures do not include items given to Trudeau worth less than $200, such as trinkets and letters he often receives from the general public.
By Marie-Danielle Smith