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Can Justin Find His Place In The Trudeau Legacy?

October 2015
Can Justin Trudeau add to the Trudeau legacy? Does he even want to? It will mean using issues that he not only believes in but that he can actually have some effect on. Courtesy of the Vancouver Sun.

Can Justin Trudeau add to the Trudeau legacy? Does he even want to? It will mean using issues that he not only believes in but that he can actually have some effect on. Courtesy of the Vancouver Sun.

Even before Rideau Cottage was renovated a few years ago it was a very neat place, perky with perfect symmetry and (friendly) ghosts. No wonder Justin Trudeau will live there with his family during his time as Prime Minister instead of at 24 Sussex Drive, which looks like a small prison, smells like old socks and holds too much bad karma for any young family.

So Trudeau has dealt with that issue. He’s facing lots of others.

The trouble is that he can’t change the processes of the big ones because the new PM can no more steer them than he can get rid of the ghosts in his new home. Policy directions about the economy, environment and human security will be decided by the same monied interests that got him into office in the first place. He’s a pawn in those games.

If he wants to shape his role in the Trudeau legacy, he’ll have to choose things that are bold, courageous and don’t threaten corporate profits too much. These are hard to find in the 21st Century, yet there are two in which he can initiate profoundly positive change: Death and Drugs.

Doesn’t sound very promising for Parliament Hill’s headline skimmers. Death is something we refuse to confront. Drugs are for experimenting youth, the very sick and for losers. Yet both, however, are potentially huge issues for a young, and suddenly powerful, politician who is aching to prove himself.

He’ll have to get his head around two things: from now on, the most-profound deaths we face are not in some far off place; they are our own and our loved ones. Plus, the legalization of pot is a tiny part of the conversation about drugs and how they can become tools in shaping a better future for most Canadians.

It is at the confluence of these issues that Trudeau can help chose which way the discussion flows. He may not be able to affect singular change, but he sure can create momentum in the right direction, just like his father Pierre did when he told reporters that “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

Trudeau, the elder, was answering a reporter’s question about homosexuality laws when he made that statement. But most Canadians, especially youth, took it as a statement advocating privacy, individuality and dignity.

How will Canadians deal with intense health issues that are coming down on them like a tidal wave.? Can are elected leaders find the courage to make changes that will help most people? Courtesy of

How will Canadians deal with intense health issues that are coming down on them like a tidal wave.? Can are elected leaders find the courage to make changes that will help most people? Courtesy of

In case you hadn’t noticed, Canadians are getting sicker. Life expectancy has levelled off and is expected to start dropping this decade. If you think cancer is a scary word, read this bulletin from the Canadian Cancer Society that predicts a 40-percent increase in the next 15 years. Canadians say they are more stressed than ever before, and that’s a recipe for illness. And we won’t even touch obesity rates and the host of “incurable” diseases that environmental toxins appear to be causing. It seems we’re starting to reap what we have sown.

During the next 20 years, deaths from terminal disease are going to hit this country like a tsunami. And it isn’t going to be just grandparents dropping off. The scary thing is that Canadians have a very difficult time accepting death, let alone learning how to face it.

We’re even behind America in the Economist’s Quality of Death Index (11th place overall) that measures availability and quality of end-of-life care. If you’ve ever watched a loved one die from terminal cancer (I’ve done it three times this year), there’s far less shock than immense pain and anxiety. It’s fucking horrible for everyone.

We can’t avoid dying, but what if there was a way to make passing a much gentler experience, on everyone?

Clinical research into the use of hallucinogenic drugs for relieving “existential distress” and suffering is again becoming mainstream. It is finding that substances like psilocybin, LSD, MDMA (Ecstasy), marijuana, among others, have incredible abilities to diminish the psychological power, and therefore some of the physical power, of illness – of course under the proper supervision and in the correct dosage.

This research is not happening at Far-Out U; it is being done at Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Harvard and most other top American medical schools. (It’s happening in Canada too.) The immediate results have been remarkable: calmness, acceptance, the ability to talk about it with loved ones. Predicted benefits extend throughout our entire anxious society in areas far beyond dying.

This is not the place to explain the full story. The two best pieces on this subject are the documentary Neurons to Nirvana and Michael Pollan’s The Trip Treatment in the New Yorker. These are must-consume content for anyone who believes science can create a better approach to life, whether through the body or the spirit.

Both show how we now have the empirical evidence to see past some pharmaceutical company’s newest anti-depressant pill, especially for things like PTSD, depression and end-of-life.

I am not advocating that everyone who’s bummed out go tripping. More clinical trials with hallucinogens will reveal better and better ways of dealing with what ails us, as humans and as a society. This isn’t about substituting illusion for reality; it is about creating a new therapeutic approach to reality. And this is where Justin Trudeau can play a role.

Ten-million dollars of funding (one hour and 27 minutes worth of Canadian subsidies to the fossil-fuel industry that do not create jobs) directed at Canadian world-class researchers can make a statement that emphasizes that there are better ways of dealing with our culture’s angst than with advertising and SSRIs.

It is a huge risk. Research and results take a very long time to come to fruition, and efforts today are just tiny first steps. Trudeau would also have to go up against the pharmaceutical companies that will fight like Banshees because most of the drugs being studied are off-patent. That means no corporate copyright profits.

Yet If he believes that aspects of our society have to change or risk disappearing, funding clinical research into new therapies that can change how we see ourselves and others is a profound first step. It will take the same level of courage that his father showed time and again when he was Prime Minister.

One Comment »

  • Von Allan said:

    Good piece, Mike.

    I just wanted to add one thing in relation to Trudeau and his majority government. There was a little piece at the end of a recent Globe and Mail article that’s worth a mention. It noted, “This summer, Ms. Notley’s government put an end to the so-called Alberta Advantage once championed by Mr. Klein, nixing the province’s 10-per-cent flat tax on personal and corporate income taxes. She brought in five new tax rates for Albertans, raising the top bracket for those making over $300,000 by 50 per cent. While the Premier has ruled out a provincial sales tax and further income-tax hikes, some of her party’s supporters have called for more revenue.” (my emphasis added)

    We’ve been constantly told that if taxes are raised on the very rich, they’ll flee. We know that’s not true but it’s always in the air. The linked piece puts that belief to bed. Fascinating that Notley did this and Trudeau’s new government could do the same.

    Lastly, I’m very sorry to hear about the deaths you’ve been dealing with. I had no idea.

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