Justin Trudeau sorry after 2001 photo surfaces of him in brownface

Justin Trudeau sorry after 2001 photo surfaces of him in brownface


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has launched his reelection campaign ahead of a close October 21 vote. (Sept. 11)

WASHINGTON — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized Wednesday after a 2001 brownface photo from a school yearbook surfaced taken when he was a 29-year-old teacher, adding turbulence for Trudeau to an already choppy re-election campaign.

He told reporters while traveling on an airplane that the photo is from 2001 when he was a teacher at the West Point Grey Academy. He was attending an end-of-year gala “where the theme was Arabian Nights.”

“I dressed up in an Aladdin costume, and put makeup on,” he continued. “I shouldn’t have done it. I should have known better, but I didn’t,” he said. “And I’m really sorry.”

The existence of the photograph was first reported by Time Magazine and was confirmed to Time by spokeswoman Zita Astravas of his re-election campaign.

“He attended with friends and colleagues dressed as a character from Aladdin,” she told the magazine. 

Canada’s New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh, who was participating in a town hall meeting when the news of the photo broke, said according to the Toronto Sun: “I think he needs to answer for it. I think he’s got to answer the question why he did that and what does that say about what he thinks about people who, because of who they are, because of the color of their skin, face challenges and barriers and obstacles in their life.” 

In the same remarks to reporters Wednesday, Trudeau also admitted that he had once dressed up in a similar way during a high school talent show, saying he wore “makeup” to perform “Day-O”,  a traditional Jamaican folk tune sung by legendary African American performer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte. 

Trudeau’s apology and admission comes after American politics has also confronted scandals involving blackface. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, remains in office after a photograph surfaced that had been published in a medical school yearbook 35 years earlier. 

Trudeau faces a tough six-week re-election campaign amid some ethical questions over whether he pressured the former Canadian attorney general to drop charges against a major construction firm and avoid a corruption trial.

The Canadian federal election is scheduled for Oct. 21.

“I think there are people who’ve made mistakes in this life,” Trudeau also told reporters Wednesday. “You make decisions based on what they actually do, what they did and on a case-by-case basis.”

When asked about resigning, Trudeau sidestepped by saying that he “takes responsibility” for his decision nearly 20 years ago, realizing now it is “something racist to do” which he didn’t realize at the time.

In 2018, Trudeau received criticism for the elaborate Indian garb that he and his family wore during a visit to the country. 

According to Time, the magazine “obtained a copy of the yearbook, The View, with the photograph of Trudeau in brownface from Vancouver businessman Michael Adamson, who was part of the West Point Grey Academy community. Adamson was not at the party, which was attended by school faculty, administrators and parents of students. He said that he first saw the photograph in July and felt it should be made public.”

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2019/09/18/justin-trudeau-sorry-after-2001-photo-surfaces-him-brownface/2370822001/

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