VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is apologizing after Time Magazine discovered a yearbook photo of him wearing ‘brownface.’
“I take responsibility for my decision to do that, I shouldn’t have done it, I should have known better. It was something I didn’t think was racist at the time, but now I recognize it was something racist to do and I am deeply sorry.”
The image dating from spring 2001 shows Trudeau at an “Arabian Nights” themed party hosted by Vancouver private school West Point Grey Academy, where he once taught.
In the photo, Trudeau is shown wearing a turban, white robes and his face and hands were painted a dark colour.
Trudeau told media he was deeply regretful for his actions but remained adamant that his record shows a commitment to fighting intolerance and racism.
“I stand here before Canadians as I will throughout this campaign to talk about the work we have to do to make this country better,” he says.
“I take responsibility for it. It was a dumb thing to do. I’m disappointed in myself. I’m pissed off at myself for having done it. I wish I hadn’t done it but I did it. And I apologize for it.”—Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on 2001 photo of him wearing brownface #cdnpoli #elxn43 pic.twitter.com/HdWhwR01Gg
— CPAC (@CPAC_TV) September 19, 2019
Pressed by reporters, he says what he did was racist because it is hurtful to people of colour, who experience oppression he himself has never faced.
He told media on a plane in Halifax that he will not step down although he is “pissed off” with himself.
“I am going to be asking Canadians to forgive me,” he says.
— Taran Parmar (@Tarankparmar) September 18, 2019
Vancouver businessman Michael Adamson provided the yearbook to Time. According to the magazine, Adamson was not at the party but it was attended by school administrators, faculty, and parents of students.
A media spokesperson reportedly confirmed Trudeau was the one pictured in the photo.
“It was a photo taken while he was teaching in Vancouver, at 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,” Zita Astravas tells Time.
Calls for apology
The National Council of Canadian Muslims had called on the Liberal Leader on Twitter to apologize in light of the photo. After he made the apology, the group issued an update.
“We thank the Prime Minister for his apology. Prime Minister Trudeau’s apology came less than an hour after NCCM called on him to apologize for wearing blackface/brownface. Promises made, promises kept. That’s the NCCM way.”
– With files from Taran Parmar