Voyageur returns to Parliament Hill @viraniarif @JustinTrudeau

Jowi, Justin and Arif I first met Justin Trudeau by complete accident back in 2003, back when he was a school teacher. I was trying to obtain something of his father's from the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough to go into the guitar but wasn't having any luck as the institution was in crisis at the time and there really wasn't anyone to talk to. So one day I'm waiting to get on an elevator on the second floor of the CBC building in Toronto and as the door opens, Justin steps out. So I buttonholed him and we had a chat about it and he gave me some numbers to call at the Trudeau Foundation and promised to follow up. Some months later he found one of Pierre's paddles at the family cottage and recorded some audio for us to help publicize the project on a CBC weekend radio show. By the spring of 2006 we were ready to start building but the TV deal with CBC had fallen through and we needed to do some of our own documentation so we arranged to meet Justin in Mount Royal Park in Montréal to make a little video with him about the paddle he'd contributed. That footage has never been seen - mostly because it turns out to have been out of focus! Fortunately, Deborah Smith - a producer at Newsworld - wanted to make her own documentary about the project and virtually replicated our Mount Royal interview with Justin and it can be seen in the film "A Canadian Guitar" (though I can't seem to find any evidence of that doc online - I've got a copy if you'd like to see it). Shortly before my book was published, I found myself in Ottawa for an event at the National Arts Centre and staying across the street at the Chateau Laurier. That same weekend there was a PEN Canada benefit in town with a reception at the Chateau and my publisher, Scott McIntyre, was there so I had an excuse to crash the party, guitar in hand. The place was full of Canada's literary icons. Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson were there, Charlotte Gray was there, and Justin was also there. He was happy to finally see the completed guitar in person and we took a photo on the very first iPhone in very poor light so I've been wanting to get proper portraits with him for a long time - whether he was a politician or not. Back in 2007, my then-MP Peggy Nash arranged for a portrait session to be held in Centre Block on Parliament Hill. We got a few of our most iconic portraits on that day - including ones with Jack Layton, Peggy, Paul Dewar and Charlie Angus, Speaker of the House Peter Milliken, then Defence Minister Peter McKay and many others. Of course, there's been a lot of changes on Parliament Hill since 2007 - including the fact that that school teacher I met is now Prime Minister - so my current MP, Arif Virani (pictured, right), agreed to set up another portrait session for us. Our room got shifted a few times and ended up being a real challenge - nowhere near as accommodating for our set up or as convenient for MPs and staff as the one we had in '07 - but we made it work. The big question, of course, was whether the PM would be able to attend. We got word just a few days from the shoot that he was in and looking forward to seeing the guitar again but we'd have to do our photos with him away from our backdrop and up by his office instead. At the appointed hour - right after doing portraits with the Usher of the Black Rod, Greg Peters, MVO - we suspended activities and headed up to the PM's office. There was a small cluster of us waiting for him to arrive. As I looked across the atrium I saw him coming up the stairs, lead by an RCMP guard ensuring a clear path. He walked briskly. When he saw the assembly near his door he held up a finger and said "I'll be with you in a moment". Then he glanced my way and a huge smile came over his face. "Jowi!", he exclaimed and he came over and gave me a big hug. I honestly had not expected that he'd remember me. He promised he'd be right back and as he headed into his office he said, "It's been a long time since we've seen each other!". "I know, what have you been up to?", I called out. "Not much", he laughed over his shoulder as the door closed behind him. He re-emerged moments later and we finally made good on the promise to get better photos than the poor one I've used in the presentation for years now. I'm glad we were finally able to get these shots. You can see ALL the photos from our moment outside the PM's office and from the portrait sessions downstairs on our Flickr gallery from the day. Thanks to Arif Virani, Michel Carpentier, Cecely Roy and Lucas Veiga for getting it all arranged and helping administer the sessions and to Herb Davis for drumming up extra attendees on the day. And thanks to all the MPs and staff who came for their portraits, including John Aldag, Will Amos, Rene Arsenault, Vance Badawey, Mike Bossio, Terry Duguid, Neil Ellis, Andy Fillmore, Peter Fonseca, Mona Fortier, Sean Fraser, Kamal Khera, David Lametti, Stephane Lauzon, Paul Lefebvre, John McKay, Michael McLeod, Greg Peters, Kyle Peterson, Yasmin Ratansi, Geoff Regan, Deb Shulte, Sonia Sidhu, Sven Spengemann and Nick Whalen. Don't see your representative's name on that list? Ask them why they weren't there!

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