Justin Trudeau has apologized after a 2001 photo of him wearing brownface surfaced during the second week of his campaign for re-election.
“I shouldn’t have done that,” he said. “I should have known better but I didn’t and I’m really sorry.”
Time magazine published a photo of the Liberal leader in dark makeup while wearing a turban on Wednesday evening.
Before Trudeau spoke, a spokesperson confirmed it was Trudeau in the black-and-white yearbook photo.
“It was a photo taken in 2001 while he was teaching in Vancouver, at the school’s annual dinner which had a costume theme of Arabian Nights, Cameron Ahmad said in a statement.
“He attended with friends and colleagues dressed as a character from Aladdin.”
Justin Trudeau appears in a photo taken in 2001 that was published by Time magazine.
Trudeau said he now recognizes that wearing brownface was racist, though he didn’t think so at the time.
He said he was taking responsibility and vowed to continue campaigning.
“I’m going to be asking 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,” he said.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called the news “troubling” and said Trudeau needs to answer for what happened.
“Any time we hear examples of brownface or blackface … it’s making a mockery of someone for what they live and what their lived experiences are,” he told reporters ahead of Trudeau’s remarks.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said she was “deeply shocked by the racism shown in this photograph of Justin Trudeau.”
“He must apologize for the harm done and commit to learning and appreciating the requirement to model social justice leadership at all levels of government.” she said in a statement. “In this matter he has failed.”
The National Council of Canadian Muslims also called on Trudeau to apologize.
“Seeing the prime minister in brownface/blackface is deeply saddening,” executive director Mustafa Farooq said in a statement.
“The wearing of blackface/brownface is reprehensible, and hearkens back to a history of racism, slavery, and an Orientalist mythology that is unacceptable. While we recognize that people can change and evolve over two decades, it is critical that the prime minister immediately and unequivocally apologizes for his wearing of brownface/blackface.”
The photo was provided to Time by Michael Adamson, who the magazine described as a Vancouver businessman with ties to the private school where Trudeau was a teacher.
The school, West Point Grey Academy, said they are aware of the report but declined to comment.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.
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