Justin Trudeau speaks to supporters at the Coast Hotel on Thursday afternoon.

Justin Trudeau speaks to supporters at the Coast Hotel on Thursday afternoon.

Liberal leadership hopeful Justin Trudeau glides through Chilliwack

Justin Trudeau, was in Chilliwack Thursday to honour local longtime Liberal Hal Singleton.

What in the world was Montreal-area MP Justin Trudeau doing in Chilliwack on Thursday?

It was because the “future of Canada is right here,” Trudeau told the crowd at the Hal Singleton Tribute at the Coast Chilliwack Hotel.

With the reasoned delivery of a former teacher, Justin Trudeau took to the podium at the special tribute. He addressed a diverse crowd that seemed eager to hear his take on ending political divisiveness of the past.

He also put his visit to Chilliwack in context.

“I have the extraordinary privilege these past weeks and next months of getting to travel right across the country,” said Trudeau. “I’m sure there’s a few of you in here who’ve wondered, ‘What in the world is Justin doing in Chilliwack?’

“It’s because the future of Canada is right here,” he told the rapt crowd.

“The future of the Liberal party is right here, and in towns and communities right across this country.

“This country has been divided too long.”

He kept on hammering that unifying message home, and the need to be a leader “for all Canadians” to counter the regionalized politics of the past.

“It’s time we started pulling together.”

That theme came up repeatedly.

“There is no ‘our gang’ or ‘their gang’ there are only Canadians and that is something we have allowed ourselves to forget,” he said and the crowd broke our in roaring cheers.

The event honouree, Hal Singleton was recognized for his unswerving dedication to family, community and his country, through his military service, work with Veterans Affairs and the Liberal Party of Canada.

The former Chilliwack-area federal Liberal candidate has been very public about his battle with terminal colon cancer, pursuing endless bouts of chemotherapy with nary a complaint, amidst huge support from his friends and family.

Speakers at the special tribute, aside from Trudeau, included local Kurt Wensler, and Hal’s son, Greg Singleton of Ottawa, who introduced his father, as “accomplished,”  “successful,” and “engaged.”

“He embraces life full on,” Singleton said about his father. “No stops. That’s how he lives and those of you who know him well, you know that. That’s also how he interacts and participates with his family.

“There are no sidelines for Hal. He’s always in play; he’s always in the field.”

His father’s fight with terminal colon cancer was likened to a “speedbump.”

But it wasn’t meant to diminish in any way the fight he’s waging.

“Every day he gets up and asks, ‘What can I do today?’ And he’s there making it happen. That, in a few words, personifies my dad,” Singleton said.

He described arriving from Ottawa and picking his dad up at the Abbotsford hospital after eight hours of treatment. He simply jumped in the car and said, “I’m doing fine. Feeling good. Let’s go!”

He ended by telling the crowd that his father continued to “lead by example,” providing a source of inspiration for the whole family.

When Hal Singleton to address the packed banquet room, he thanked his friends and family, and caregivers, who’ve been behind him faithfully in the two years since his diagnosis.

He turned his attention to the medical system, which he said has its flaws.

“I’ll bring you to the flaw that I saw,” he said. “Colon cancer is treatable; highly treatable.

“My brother had polyps. They’re treatable. He cut them out. If cancer gets in your colon and you get it in time, you cut it out. If it goes into your liver and metastasizes and it’s half-baked, you cut it out.

“But when it’s fully baked, there’s nothing you can do,” he said. “And I’m here to tell you I’m fully baked. I’m terminal.”

It probably took 10 years before he was diagnosed. He’s not pointing fingers, said he’s not depressed since he’s squared himself with God.

“But the system is upside down,” he said. “We’re spending oodles and oodles of money on treatment and nothing on prevention. It’s backwards and we have to change that.”

He told the audience his prayers had been answered with the provincial government’s announcement about a colon cancer screening program.

“Isn’t that wonderful?” he said, telling folks that colon cancer was the number two killer.

Trudeau took pains to recognize the importance of stalwart party faithful like Hal Singleton of Chilliwack.

“I want to say thank you for your words, but mostly, thank you for your strength and your service,” Trudeau told Singleton.

“Your service to your country, whether it was in the military or whether it was as an active member of the political fight here in Chilliwack, it is your commitment to your community, to your family and to your country and that does both you and your entire community very, very proud.”