Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a fireside discussion at a Black History Month reception at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Trudeau revisits blackface embarrassment during Black History Month

Photos and a video of Trudeau wearing makeup to darken his skin surfaced during last fall’s election campaign

Justin Trudeau acknowledged his own past history of unconscious racism during a celebration Monday of Black History Month.

The prime minister reflected on the “dumb choices” he made when he donned blackface and brownface multiple times in younger days.

Photos and a video of Trudeau wearing makeup to darken his skin surfaced during last fall’s election campaign, rocking the Liberal campaign and forcing Trudeau to profusely and repeatedly apologize for behaviour he said he didn’t realize at the time was wrong, but which he belatedly acknowledged was ”a racist thing to do.”

On Monday, Trudeau raised the embarrassing disclosure of the photos during a question-and-answer session with broadcast journalist Marci Ien during an evening reception celebrating Canada’s black community.

Trudeau said all Canadians need to stop avoiding difficult questions and take a hard look at systemic discrimination against black Canadians.

“For me, taking that hard look certainly came to a head last fall during the election campaign and reflection on my own choices of many years ago and how that actually hurt people today that I had made really dumb choices that I didn’t understand the consequence for.”

Trudeau said it has prompted him to “be even more committed to standing with this community and fighting every day against the barriers and discrimination that are so invisible to so many people.”

Ien noted that many people thought Trudeau didn’t deserve a second chance after the photos were revealed, that he was an adult in at least one of the photos — dressed as Aladdin at a 2001 costume party at a private school where he was working as a 29-year-old teacher — and should have known better.

Trudeau said it was ”a moment of deep disappointment” in himself to realize that he’d “really hurt” people who considered him an ally in the fight against anti-black racism.

But he said black leaders across the country encouraged him to turn the mortifying disclosure into something positive for race relations in Canada.

“It will be on my shoulders because that is part of my story now, to make sure that I can then say, ‘This is what we kept working on, this is what we kept doing and this is how we as a team, as a government and me as an individual is working to make sure that … these barriers and this anti-black racism that still exists is directly addressed and minimized across this country for future generations.’”

After his remarks, Trudeau received a standing ovation from the several hundred people in the predominantly black audience.

He was mobbed afterwards by people wanting to shake his hand and take selfies with him.

READ MORE: ‘I shouldn’t have done it,’ Trudeau says of brownface photo

READ MORE: After blackface scandal, Trudeau shuns photo ops of trick or treating

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

blackfaceJustin Trudeau

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mental Health: Fractured services leave community to fill gaps

Greater Victoria service providers working together to help youth

Bag containing meat, sewing needles found by dog owner in Cordova Bay

Saanich police don’t believe it’s a trend

UVic creates emergency bursary for students facing hardships due to COVID-19

Students can apply by emailing the financial aid office

Colwood Spring Clean-Up postponed, branch drop-off continues

Strict measures in place for branch drop-off

Saanich teen earns $100,000 commerce scholarship to the University of Calgary

Matias Totz is graduating from St. Michaels University School

‘Hold our line’: 29 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C.

Saturday’s number of new cases marks the lowest in weeks.

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at federal prison in B.C.; other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, refusal to work notice sent, says correctional officer

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

Nanaimo’s Harmac mill works to fill doubled pulp order for medical masks and gowns

Mill’s president says extra cleaning in place and workers are social distancing

Two people fined after B.C. police spot online ads re-selling 5,000 surgical, N95 masks

Police confiscated the masks, being sold at inflated prices, and now working with Fraser Health

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

POLL: Will you be able to make your rent or mortgage payment this month?

With the COVID-19 delivering a devastating blow to the global economy, and… Continue reading

COVID-19: Postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Most Read