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

Parade of welcome and love in Prince Rupert

Friends welcome new baby in drive by visit

Wage Subsidy up to 75 per cent announced

Businesses who have had a 30 per cent decrease can apply

UPDATE: Man drowns crossing Skeena River

59-year old Prince Rupert victim pronounced dead at Mills Memorial

Reports of gunshots

No shooting according to RCMP

Better COVID-19 testing results needed in the north

Former senior Northern Health official also wants work camps shut down

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Ferries working on schedule shifts to keep workers safe

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Canadian COVID-19 round-up: Air Canada cuts 15,000 jobs, 90% of flights

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 2:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Canadian ferry operators call for inclusion in COVID-19 travel restrictions

Domestic travel restrictions should include ferries, operators say

Most Read