Recently published photos of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in brownface and blackface are causing an uproar across the country and Skeena-Bulkley Valley is no exception.
Wet’suwet’en Chief Na’Moks (John Ridsdale) was unequivocal that it sows fear within Indigenous communities.
“When you have an elected official who actually has photos of that subject matter made public, it affects everybody,” he said.
“It’s such a terrible thing where this country has two parties, either Liberal or Conservative, and you always have to take the best of the worst, I guess. That’s what we did when he got in last time, and now between him and that Scheer madness, I thought one was more racist than the other, but now it appears they seem to be neck and neck.”
The first photo, published on Wednesday by Time Magazine, shows Trudeau in 2001 in dark makeup and wearing a turban during an ‘Arabian Nights’-themed party at West Point Grey Academy, the private school at which he taught. By this morning two more instances of Trudeau, this time wearing blackface, emerged.
Dave Birdi, the Liberal candidate and himself a person of South Asian descent, downplayed the issue.
“My main focus is on jobs,” he said. “With this, I do have trust with Trudeau.
“Those photos of Justin Trudeau don’t matter. What matters are jobs. And wherever I go in the Skeena-Bulkley Valley that’s what I hear.”
Trudeau apologized during a news conference Wednesday evening.
“I shouldn’t have done that,” he said. “I should have known better, but I didn’t and I’m really sorry.”
He noted he now recognizes wearing brownface was racist, but didn’t at the time.
“I’m going to be asking Canadians to forgive me for what I did. I shouldn’t have done that. I take responsibility for it. It was a dumb thing to do,” he said.
Skeena-Bulkley Valley Conservative candidate Claire Rattée said that’s not good enough.
“I don’t have a lot to say on that, I think it’s pretty self-explanatory,” she said. “All I would say is that it’s shocking and pretty disgusting to see something like that coming from our prime minister. It was wrong then, it’s wrong now and I don’t think he’s given a reasonable apology on that at all. I don’t think that he actually understands the gravity of what he’s done.”
Chief Na’Moks said he worries about what it means for Indigenous people going forward.
“When you have material such as that out there, it makes everybody worried,” he said. “Canada is supposed to be a pretty caring and sharing country and when you get down to dirty politics, these things come out, but just the fact that he has these, is really disturbing.
“It’s pretty unfair when you have a two-party country, you have options in third and fourth place, but they seem to go down in the polls. This year, I think, the political race is going to get dirtier and dirtier by the day.”