Canadian prime minister says he deeply regrets image from 2001 party, which emerges weeks out from election
Justin Trudeau has apologised for wearing brownface makeup to a party when he was a teacher in 2001, saying “it was a racist thing to do” – and marking a potential turning point in next month’s tightly contested general election.
A photograph of Trudeau with brown makeup on his face, neck and hands and dressed in a turban and robes was published by Time magazine on Wednesday. It appeared in a school yearbook, while Trudeau, then 29, was working as a teacher at West Point Grey Academy.
“I apologise profoundly,” said the Canadian prime minister on Wednesday night after the photograph was published. “I regret it deeply. I’m deeply sorry I did that, I should have known better.”
“It was something I should not have done. I didn’t think it was racist at the time, but now I see, it was a racist thing to do.”
Trudeau did not answer a question about whether he had considered resigning.
“In 2001, when I was a teacher in Vancouver, I attended an end-of-year gala, the theme was Arabian nights. I dressed up in an Aladdin costume and put makeup on. I shouldn’t have done it. I should have known better, but I didn’t and I’m really sorry,” Trudeau said.
Political rivals seized on the opportunity to attack the prime minister, issuing scathing condemnations following revelations of the damning image.
Andrew Scheer, the Conservative leader and Trudeau’s main opponent, said he was “extremely shocked and disappointed” at the actions of the prime minister, calling his rival “unfit” to lead Canada. “It was racist in 2001, it’s racist now,” he said.