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CANADA: ‘A dumb thing to do’: Trudeau apologizes for brownface – Racism

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Canadian Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau reacts as he makes a statement in regards to a photo coming to light of himself from 2001, wearing “brownface,” during a scrum on his campaign plane in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

TORONTO (Associated Press) — Canadian leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign was hit Wednesday by the publication of a yearbook photo showing him in brownface makeup at a 2001 costume party. The prime minister apologized and said “it was a dumb thing to do.”

Time magazine posted the photo, which it says was published in the yearbook from the West Point Grey Academy, a private school in British Columbia where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics. It depicts the then 29-year-old Trudeau wearing a turban and robe, with dark makeup on his hands, face and neck.

Trudeau, who launched his reelection campaign exactly one week ago, said he should have known better.

“I’m pissed off at myself, I’m disappointed in myself,” Trudeau told reporters traveling with him on his campaign plane.

The Canadian prime minister is but the latest politician to face scrutiny over racially insensitive photos and actions from their younger days. Earlier this year, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam faced intense pressure to resign after a racist picture surfaced from his 1984 medical school yearbook page. He denied being in the picture but admitted wearing blackface as a young man while portraying Michael Jackson at a dance party in the 1980s. Since then, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has acknowledged wearing blackface in college, and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has publicly apologized for donning blackface during a college skit more than 50 years ago. None has resigned.

TIME
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Exclusive: Justin Trudeau wore brownface at 2001 ‘Arabian Nights’ party while he taught at a private school, Canada’s Liberal Party admits http://mag.time.com/chJRuX6

Justin Trudeau Wore Brownface at 2001 ‘Arabian Nights’ Party While He Taught at a Private School,…

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, wore brownface makeup to a party at the private school where he taught in 2001, a photo obtained by TIME showstime.com

The photo of Trudeau was taken at the school’s annual dinner, which had an “Arabian Nights” theme that year, Trudeau said, adding that he was dressed as a character from “Aladdin.” The prime minister said it was not the first time he has painted his face; once, he said, he performed a version of Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” during a talent show.

“I should have known better then but I didn’t, and I am deeply sorry for it,” Trudeau said. “I’m going to ask Canadians to forgive me for what I did. I shouldn’t have done that. I take responsibility for it. It was a dumb thing to do.”

Canadian Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau makes a statement about a 2001 photo of him wearing “brownface,” during a scrum on his campaign plane in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

He said he has always been more enthusiastic about costumes than is “sometimes appropriate.”
“These are the situations I regret deeply,” Trudeau added.

The prime minister, who champions diversity and multiculturalism, said he didn’t consider it racist at the time but said society knows better now.

The photo’s publication could spell more trouble for Trudeau, who polls say is facing a serious challenge from Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

Federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer comments on a 2001 photo of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wearing brownface at a party, in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

Trudeau has been admired by liberals around the world for his progressive policies in the Trump era, with Canada accepting more refugees than the United States. His Liberal government has also strongly advocated free trade and legalized cannabis nationwide.
But the 47-year-old son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was already vulnerable following one of the biggest scandals in Canadian political history, which arose when Trudeau’s former attorney general said he improperly pressured her to halt the criminal prosecution of a company in Quebec. Trudeau has said he was standing up for jobs, but the scandal rocked the government and led to multiple resignations earlier this year, causing a drop in the leader’s poll ratings.

Following the release of the brownface photo, Trudeau said he would talk to his kids in the morning about taking responsibility.

His quick apology did not stem the criticism from political opponents, who took the prime minister to task for what they said was troubling behavior.

New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh comments on a photo from 2001 surfacing of Canadian Prime Minister and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, when he was a teacher wearing “brownface at a party,” as he makes a statement in Toronto, Wednesday September 18, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)

“It is insulting. Any time we hear examples of brownface or blackface it’s making a mockery of someone for what they live, for what their lived experiences are. I think he has to answer for it,” said Leftist New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, a Sikh who wears a turban and the first visible minority to lead a national party.
Scheer, the opposition Conservative leader, said brownface was racist in 2001 and is racist in 2019.

“What Canadians saw this evening was someone with a complete lack of judgment and integrity and someone who is not fit to govern this country,” Scheer said.

Robert Bothwell, a professor of Canadian history and international relations at the University of Toronto, said he was “gobsmacked” at the development and wondered how it would land in Parliament.

“We’ll just have to see how the party reacts,” he said. “I’m very curious to know how Liberal members of Parliament that are black will react.”

How the scandal will affect Trudeau’s campaign remains in question. Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said he didn’t think the photo’s release would cause people to vote differently. Wiseman said race and blackface play a much bigger role in U.S. politics than in Canada.

“I don’t think this will swing the vote, although the story will get a lot of media play for a couple of days,” Wiseman said. “The Liberals may very well lose the election — they almost certainly will not do as well as in 2015 — but this is not the type of scandal that will drive voters to the Conservatives.”
Justin Trudeau Wore Brownface at 2001 ‘Arabian Nights’ Party While He Taught at a Private School

Justin Trudeau, now the prime minister of Canada, appears in dark makeup on his face, neck and hands at a 2001 “Arabian Nights”-themed party at the West Point Grey Academy, the private school where he taught. TIME
By TIME SEPTEMBER 18, 2019 9:15 PM ET

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, wore brownface makeup to a party at the private school where he was teaching in the spring of 2001. TIME has obtained a photograph of the incident.

The photograph has not been previously reported. The picture was taken at an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala. It shows Trudeau, then the 29-year-old son of the late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, wearing a turban and robes with his face, neck and hands completely darkened. The photograph appears in the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private day school where Trudeau was a teacher.

Earlier this month, TIME 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.

The yearbook from the 2000/2001 school year at West Point Grey Academy shows several people, some of whom are still on staff at the school, dressed up for the gala—however only Trudeau appears to have darkened his skin. TIME

Speaking to reporters Wednesday night, following TIME’s publication of the photo, Trudeau apologized: “I shouldn’t have done that. I should have known better and I didn’t. I’m really sorry.” When asked if he thought the photograph was racist, he said, “Yes it was. I didn’t consider it racist at the time, but now we know better.”

Trudeau said he wore blackface “makeup” in high school to sing “Day-O,” a Jamaican folk song famously performed by African-American singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte. “I deeply regret that I did that,” he said.

On Wednesday, Zita Astravas, the media relations lead of the Liberal Party of Canada, which Trudeau is the leader of, confirmed that the prime minister was in the photo. “It was a photo taken while he was teaching in Vancouver, at the school’s annual dinner which had a costume theme of ‘Arabian Nights.’ He attended with friends and colleagues dressed as a character from Aladdin,” said Astravas. Trudeau is planning on addressing the photograph to the media later this evening, according to the Astravas. The prime minister’s official director of communications did not return multiple calls.

Justin Trudeau Wore Brownface at 2001 ‘Arabian Nights’ Party While He Taught at a Private School, Canada’s Liberal Party Admits
Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, wore brownface makeup to a party at the private school where he was teaching in the spring of 2001. TIME has obtained a photograph of the incident.

This is a critical moment for Trudeau, who began his re-election campaign on Sept. 11 under the cloud of a scandal over whether he pressured his then-attorney general to drop corruption charges against a large Canadian engineering firm. The Liberal Party leader has championed minority groups during his nearly four years as prime minister and made his embrace of Canada’s many cultures a major part of his leadership. At least seven of the 35 members of Trudeau’s cabinet are from ethnic minorities.

Trudeau has previously garnered regular media attention in the Canadian and global press for his choice of attire. In 2018, he was mocked for the elaborate Indian garb that he, his wife and their three children wore during a visit to India.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Gregoire pay their respects at the SSikh Golden Temple in Amritsar on Feb. 21, 2018. 
Narinder Nanu—AFP/Getty Images

Trudeau was also criticized by artist Robert Davidson, who is a member of the Haida indigenous people, because of a tattoo on his left arm that is based on the artist’s work. Davidson said in 2016 that the Trudeau government’s approval of a natural gas facility opposed by the Haida showed the prime minister was not genuinely sensitive to concerns of Canada’s indigenous population.

TIME reached out to multiple people who attended West Point Grey’s spring gala in 2001, including three of the four women in the photo with Trudeau. Most were reluctant to talk about it. One former staff member declined to comment, citing loyalty to Trudeau. Others said they did not remember Trudeau at the party. Two people contacted by TIME acknowledged the existence of the picture, which has been the subject of gossip within the West Point Grey community.

Trudeau was not the only person in costume at the 2001 gala event. Of the individuals in six photographs from the event published in the yearbook, Trudeau appears to be the only one who darkened his skin. Many who dressed up for the “Arabian Nights” gala are still at the school, including current headmaster Stephen Anthony, who is pictured wearing what appears to be a crown.

The yearbook shows Trudeau among the staff at West Point Grey, a private day school. He downplayed his experience there during his campaign in 2015. TIME

Anthony did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the photo and the event.

Trudeau taught classes, including French, until he left after the spring of 2001. West Point Grey Academy is currently among the most expensive private day schools in Vancouver, with annual tuition ranging from just under $22,000 to about $23,500. During his 2015 election campaign, Trudeau downplayed his experience at the private academy, instead focusing on his time teaching at a public school in Vancouver.

Trudeau is far from the only public figure who darkened his skin in the past for a costume.

The United States has a long and painful history of white performers darkening their faces to demean and dehumanize African-Americans—a practice made popular by minstrel shows in the 19th century. Blackface continued into the 20th century in Broadway shows and Hollywood movies.

In February, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam first apologized for, and then denied he was in a 1984 medical school yearbook photo that surfaced earlier this year showing a man in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan hood. Despite criticism, Northam declined to step aside. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey also apologized this year after a radio interview from the 1960s surfaced in which she was described as wearing blackface.

—— AUTO – GENERATED; Published (Halifax Canada Time AST) on: September 19, 2019 at 02:01AM

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