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

City moving forward with next phase of OCP vision statement creation

Revelstoke will see a focus group give feedback on proposed amendments

Revelstoke City Council approves virtual building inspections

Service will continue using video calling technology as well as photos

Upcoming contruction planned for Revelstoke Schools

Further upgrades at Columbia Park Elementary and playground review at Arrow Heights Elementary

Cougar caught on camera in Lake Country

A Lake Country resident caught a cougar prowling near their home

COVID-19 death toll reaches 50 in B.C., while daily case count steadies

B.C. records 34 new cases in the province, bringing total active confirmed cases to 462

Public warned to stay away from algae bloom near Herald Park in Shuswap Lake

Interior Health states that people, pets should not drink the water in the area or touch the algae

B.C. unveils $5M for mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

Will include virtual clinics and resources for British Columbians, including front-line workers

South Shuswap residents criticize upgrades to Balmoral Road/Highway 1 intersection

Reliance on frontage roads and narrow underpasses near Blind Bay not good enough

B.C.’s COVID-19 rent supplement starts taking applications

$300 to $500 to landlords for April, May and June if eligible

COVID-19: No more international flights at Kelowna International Airport

All international flights at YLW have been suspended, airport to operate just nine flights a day

B.C.’s top doctor details prescription for safe long weekend

Yes, it includes hosting an online cooking show

BC SPCA seeks help for abandoned German shepherd puppies

Donations have ‘petered out’ as doors are closed due to COVID-19

Reality TV show about bodybuilders still filming in Okanagan amid COVID-19

Five bodybuilders from across the country flew to Kelowna to move into a house for a reality TV show

Most Read