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Justin Trudeau has responded to a yearbook photo from 2001 of the Prime Minister wearing brownface makeup during an “Arabian Nights” themed gala while he was a teacher at a private school in Vancouver.
“I should have known better, but I didn’t and I regret it profoundly,” said Trudeau to the media on Wednesday night.
“I’m going to be asking Canadians to forgive me, it was a dumb thing to do and I’m pissed off at myself for it.”
Exclusive: Justin Trudeau wore brownface at 2001 ‘Arabian Nights’ party while he taught at a private school, Canada's Liberal Party admits https://t.co/j3UobfYNIF— TIME (@TIME) September 18, 2019
Trudeau went on to say that he now considers the brownface makeup to be an act of racism, however, despite being 29-years-old at the time of the photo, he was unaware of the racial implications.
Published by TIME Magazine on Wednesday, the photo was provided by Michael Adamson, a Vancouver businessman with ties West Point Grey Academy where Trudeau was teaching at the time of the photo.
A Liberal spokesman has confirmed the photo is of Trudeau.
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.
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.”
With files from the Canadian Press.