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Brownface images come back to haunt Canada's Trudeau

September 19, 2019

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized--twice--after photos and a video emerged of him in brownface makeup on 3 separate occassions. The images emerged the week after he launched his reelection campaign.

Justin Trudeau
Image: picture-alliance/C. Katsarov

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a liberal advocate of multiculturalism, wore brownface makeup on three different occasions. Two images and a video of Trudeau in brownface have surfaced since Wednesday. 

Trudeau, who launched a campaign for reelection last week, immediately apologized for wearing the makeup.

"I should have known better then, but I didn't and I did it and I'm deeply sorry," Trudeau told reporters on his campaign plane on Wednesday, asking for forgiveness.

He admitted it was a racist act although he didn't realize it at the time.

The first image to emerge showed Trudeau at a costume party in 2001.

In the hours since the first image surfaced, the prime minister has faced two further allegations of wearing racist make-up. Canada's Global News published a video from the 1990s that appears to show Trudeau in "blackface." The prime minister's Liberal Party has confirmed that the video is legitimate.

The third image is of a teenage Trudeau performing in a school talent show. 

In the Wednesday press conference, the prime minister acknowledged two instances in which he wore brownface in the past. After the third image emerged on Thursday, the prime minister was reluctant to commit to a hard number when pushed by journalists in a follow-up conference.

"I shared the moments that I recollected," he said, referring to his initial statement. 

Series of setbacks

Time magazine on Wednesday posted the first photo, which it said showed Trudeau at an "Arabian Nights" dinner gala in 2001 wearing a turban and robe with his face, neck and hands covered in dark makeup.

The picture appeared in the yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private school where Trudeau taught at the time. He was then 29.

Release of the photo adds to the Liberal leader's woes as polls show he faces a stiff challenge from Conservative leader Andrew Scheer in a federal election set for October.

Trudeau was already facing public scrutiny over an ethics scandal related to accusations he interfered in a bribery case against engineering giant SNC-LavalinTrudeau has said he was protecting jobs.

A darling of liberals around the world for his progressive policies in the era of US President Donald Trump, half of Trudeau's cabinet is female and at least six members have Asian or African heritage.

cw,ed,kp/se (AFP, AP, dpa)

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