TORONTO — A photo of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posing with Veluppillai Thangavelu, the former vice-president of a group on Canada’s list of outlawed terrorist organizations, has underscored the pitfalls of selfie politics.
Thangavelu, who was a senior official in the World Tamil Movement when it was the target of an RCMP investigation, posted a photo on Facebook showing he and Trudeau in Toronto last month.
Thangavelu also appeared in the background of a photo of Trudeau posted that same day on the Twitter account of the prime minister’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts. “Good people,” the caption read.
The pictures were taken at the Malvern Family Resource Centre on March 31, days before the federal by-election in nearby Markham. Thangavelu said on Facebook he had a “brief conversation” with Trudeau at the event.
“The Prime Minister attends hundreds of events every year and meets with tens of thousands of people,” said Andrée-Lyne Hallé, a spokesperson for the prime minister. “At these events and out in public, people often ask to take a picture with the Prime Minister.”
“He just came to meet some people so I was also one of the invitees, so he just went around and spoke to people,” Thangavelu said of Trudeau when the National Post reached him by phone. “Why can’t a citizen of Canada meet the prime minister? It’s quite appropriate. Every citizen of this country has a right to meet the prime minister.”