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Trudeau Family Connected to the West Kootenay

Justin Trudeau's dramatic triumph in Monday night's federal election is the latest chapter in a family history that stretches back decades. Selkirk College and the West Kootenay are featured in the storyline going back to the late-1960s.

With a second wave of Trudeaumania officially ushered in on election night, an iconic photograph of the 1960s version featuring Selkirk College’s Castlegar Campus illustrates the links the family has to the West Kootenay.

In the spring of 1968, Pierre Elliott Trudeau was campaigning in British Columbia in search of his first trip to the prime minister’s office. One of his stops was Castlegar where he spoke to a large gathering at the Castlegar Campus. Former Nelson Daily News photographer Brian Clarkson snapped a photograph of the future prime minister on stage as the crowd watched attentively.

The iconic photograph of Pierre Elliott Trudeau that was taken by former Nelson Daily News photographer Brian Clarkson at the Selkirk College Castlegar Campus in the spring of 1968.

“Selkirk College had just opened in Castlegar [in 1966] and he was set up on the grounds there,” Clarkson told the Nelson Daily News in September, 2000 for a story that ran shortly after the elder Trudeau’s passing. “When he was speaking I walked up to the podium beside him, the security people were caught totally off guard because I was allowed to stand right beside him for a few moments and got some wonderful pictures. I walked off and people just sort of looked at me. I don’t know if anybody had ever tried that before, I was 18 or 19 years old and to me it just had the makings of a really neat picture.”

Clarkson’s photograph was featured on the front cover of the Nelson Daily News and in newspapers across the country. In 2000, Clarkson told the local newspaper that the photo helped propel him onto a great career beyond the West Kootenay.

“It’s still one of my favourites, it’s certainly in the top-10,” he told a Nelson Daily News reporter. “It meant an awful lot to me, I was young and impressionable. But if I took it today, it would still mean a lot.”

Justin Trudeau Holds Strong Connection to West Kootenay


Pierre Trudeau’s visit to Selkirk College took place before his oldest son Justin was even born. On Monday night, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada scored a majority government victory in the federal election. He is expected to be sworn in as Canada’s next prime minister next month.

Justin Trudeau’s connection to the West Kootenay is significant. In November, 1998 his younger brother Michel died after an avalanche swept him into an alpine lake in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park east of Nelson. The following autumn, Justin and Pierre Trudeau visited the site to pay tribute.

Early in 2001, Justin Trudeau helped spearhead an effort to raise almost $1 million to build a new cabin in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park and kicked off the campaign at an event at Nelson’s Hume Hotel that included Canadian astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar, ski legend Nancy Greene Raine and then-B.C. Premier Ujjal Dosanjh.

Justin Trudeau’s other notable visit to the area came in July, 2013 when he was touring the region and raising enthusiasm for the political run that has since elevated him to the highest office in the country. During that visit, he hiked in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park with his wife and children.

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