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

Charity helps local man with medical costs

Group brings in $1,200 in 20 minutes

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

COVID-19 brings burning ban to Clearwater and area

The reason for the ban is to help reduce excess air pollution in populated air-sheds

B.C. COVID-19 contact restrictions working, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

’Not out of the woods yet’ as next two weeks are critical

Kamloops-Thompson teachers to connect with parents to reveal plans for remote teaching

School district also asking parents to ensure children are practicing social distancing

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

LifeLabs reducing public hours as it assists with COVID-19 testing

Coronavirus tests not done at B.C. patient centres, referrals only

24,000 Canadian Forces members ready to be deployed to help with COVID-19 response

No direct requests made by premiers yet, national defence minister says

IN DEPTH: How B.C. emptied its hospitals to prepare for COVID-19

Thousands of beds have been freed up, but patients and seniors have had to sacrifice

‘Nothing concrete’: Tenants, landlords lack details after B.C. unveils COVID-19 rental aid

Single mom in Golden says she’s already going to the food bank after being laid off

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Crucial details of Ottawa’s proposed wage subsidy program expected today

The government has rolled out a bailout package totalling more than $200 billion

World COVID-19 morning update: Olympics delayed one year; 12,000 health care workers infected

Comprehensive world news update: Lockdown in UK showing signs of hope

Most Read