UPDATE: Yearbook photo surfaces of Trudeau wearing 'brownface' costume in 2001 - InfoNews

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UPDATE: Yearbook photo surfaces of Trudeau wearing 'brownface' costume in 2001

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau makes a statement in regards to photo coming to light of himself from 2001 wearing "brownface" during a scrum on his campaign plane in Halifax, N.S., on Wednesday, September 18, 2019.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
September 18, 2019 - 5:22 PM

OTTAWA - A yearbook photo of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wearing "brownface" makeup at a 2001 costume party detonated Wednesday on the federal campaign trail, instantly tarnishing the Liberal leader's bona fides as a champion of inclusivity and tolerance and stopping the party's re-election momentum squarely in its tracks.

Time magazine has posted the photo, which it says was published in the yearbook from the West Point Grey Academy, a private school in Vancouver, B.C., where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics.

The report describes the occasion as an "Arabian Nights"-themed gala event. The photo depicts Trudeau wearing a turban and robe, with dark makeup on his hands, face and neck.

Liberal spokesman Cameron Ahmad confirmed the photo is of Trudeau, who delivered an abject apology during an emergency news conference Friday on board the party's campaign plane.

"I shouldn't have done it," a stone-faced Trudeau said, adding he's "deeply disappointed" in himself. "I should have known better," he said, adding, "I didn't consider it a racist action at the time."

Ahmad explained in a statement that the photo was taken in 2001 while Trudeau was teaching in Vancouver and attending 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."

The picture depicts the now-Liberal leader alongside four young women — his hands draped over one of them — in what appear to be cocktail dresses, none dressed as elaborately as Trudeau. The report describes the photo as having been the subject of gossip within the West Point Grey community.

Word of the photo ripped through the Liberal campaign bus like wildfire when the story broke, instantly changing the mood. Staff members suddenly began talking on their cellphones as reporters urgently called their newsrooms before snapping open their laptops.

So-called "blackface" images have been a frequent source of controversy in recent years, predominantly in the United States, where last year a number of prominent state politicians were forced to apologize for similar yearbook images that surfaced publicly.

But the image surely represents a crisis moment for Trudeau, whose political brand as Liberal leader and prime minister has been forged by themes of tolerance, inclusivity and racial harmony.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who was taking part in a town hall meeting when the news broke, said it's becoming clear that Trudeau's public persona may not be an accurate reflection of who he is.

"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 colour of their skin, face challenges and barriers and obstacles in their life," Singh said.

"Who is the real Mr. Trudeau? Is it the one behind closed doors, the one when the cameras are turned off that no one sees?" Singh asked. "Is that the real Mr. Trudeau? Because more and more, it seems like it is."

The National Council of Canadian Muslims wasted little time calling on Trudeau to explain the "deeply saddening" photo.

"The wearing of blackface/brownface is reprehensible, and hearkens back to a history of racism, slavery, and an Orientalist mythology that is unacceptable," said executive director Mustafa Farooq.

"While we recognize that people can change and evolve over two decades, it is critical that the prime minister immediately and unequivocally apologize."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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