Justin Trudeau 'brownface' controversy: Strong reactions pour in even after Canada PM apologizes

Trudeau's political opponents tore into him to make gains ahead of the country's federal elections in October.

                            Justin Trudeau 'brownface' controversy: Strong reactions pour in even after Canada PM apologizes
Justin Trudeau (Getty Images)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used to be the media’s darling. His counterweight against the mercurial neighbouring president, Donald Trump, is often appreciated the world over. The man’s ‘romantic’ image with some of the world’s leading women admiring him sets the headlines on fire. But now, Trudeau has found himself in a spot of bother over him sporting brownface at a school event back in 2001.

With Canada’s federal elections scheduled next month, Trudeau’s opponents couldn't have found a better opportunity to corner the Liberal Party leader. On Wednesday, the 47-year-old tendered an apology to the media on a flight saying: “I shouldn't have done it. I should have known better, but I didn't. And I'm really sorry.” The prime minister even conceded that it was a racist photo but that he didn’t consider it when it was taken.


The Liberal Party admitted that Trudeau painted his face and hands in black and wore a turban and white robes at an ‘Arabian Nights’ party while he taught at a private school. The occasion was a year-end celebration. Zita Astravas, speaking on Trudueau’s behalf, said the future prime minister opted to dress like a character from Aladdin. Time first reported about the photograph that soon sparked a major controversy threatening Trudeau’s electoral campaign.

Reactions poured in thick and fast after Trudeau’s ‘blackened past’ came to the forefront. 

What are Trudeau's political opponents' reactions?

Andrew Scheer, Trudeau’s Conservative opponent in this election, said at Sherbrooke he was extremely shocked and disappointed to learn about the prime minister’s actions. “It was just as racist in 2001 as it is in 2019,” Scheer was quoted as saying by CBC Politics. The Conservative leader also said that Trudeau is not fit to govern Canada. 


Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) and also contesting the upcoming election, criticized Trudeau’s act on CBC News saying “it is troubling, insulting. Anytime we hears examples of brownfacing and blackfacing, it’s really, it’s making a mockery of someone for what they live and what their life experiences are.” Singh said Trudeau needed to answer why he did that. “Racism is real. I have experienced it in my life. He’s got to answer those questions,” the NDP leader said.


Another Canadian politician Laura Mae Lindo, who called herself Trudeau’s friendly anti-racist critic, said: “you wore blackface, don’t tell anyone that you wore blackface, and did so as an educator, it’s hard to trust you leading anti-racism strategies for Canada. And no, apologies aren’t enough.


Toronto Sun journalist Lorrie Goldstein, who is known to be a strong critic of Trudeau, tweeted: “Justin Trudeau just told Canadians that at the age of 29, in 2001, he didn't know it was racist for him to go to a costume party in blackface. Oh, and he also did it in high school.”


Voices in support of Trudeau



To draw a comparison in the US, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was in the same spot earlier this year after a yearbook photo from 1984 showing a man in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood suggested that he was in it. Northam first apologized but then denied and refused to resign. Similarly, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey apologized earlier this year for wearing a blackface while doing a skit at Auburn University. 

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