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Trudeau Apologizes For Blackface Video After Saying Sorry For Brownface Photo

The Liberal leader said he could not be “definitive” about the number of times he wore racist makeup.

Justin Trudeau has again apologized to racialized Canadians for another racist incident from his past, while leaving open the door that more damaging photos could surface.

The Liberal leader spoke to reporters in Winnipeg hours after Global News published a video of a younger, long-haired Trudeau wearing blackface. The grainy footage shows Trudeau opening his mouth and thrusting his arms in the air while wearing makeup that makes his skin look black.

A Liberal spokesperson told HuffPost Canada in a statement the video dates back to the early 1990s.

Trudeau acknowledged Thursday that his actions have hurt Canadians who face intolerance each day. As the son of a former prime minister, he said his “layers of privilege” kept him from seeing that at the time.

A screenshot of the video published by Global News on Thursday shows Justin Trudeau in blackface makeup.
Global News
A screenshot of the video published by Global News on Thursday shows Justin Trudeau in blackface makeup.

“Darkening your face, regardless of the context or the circumstances, is... unacceptable because of the racist history of blackface,” he said. “I should have understood that then and I never should have done it.”

The video was released less than a day after Time magazine broke the story that Trudeau wore brownface makeup and a turban while attending an “Arabian Nights” themed party in 2001. The photo appeared in the 2000-2001 yearbook for West Point Grey Academy, a prestigious private school in Vancouver where Trudeau, then 29, worked as a teacher. Liberal spokesperson Zita Astravas told HuffPost that Trudeau was “dressed as a character from Aladdin.”

The Liberal leader apologized Wednesday for the racist act and admitted there was another incident of him wearing similar makeup. He said that during a high school performance, he sang the song “Day-O” that was first made popular by Jamaican-American singer Harry Belafonte. That photo also emerged on social media on Wednesday night.

Asked Thursday why he did not similarly reveal the incident exposed by Global News, Trudeau claimed to have forgotten about it.

“I shared the moments that I recollected,” he said.

He faced other questions about whether there were more than three occasions in which he wore racist makeup.

“It is obvious that this is something that is deeply regrettable. I am wary of being definitive about this because the recent pictures that came out I had not remembered,” he said, seemingly conceding that may be hard to believe.

“The fact is I didn’t understand how hurtful this is to people who live with discrimination every single day. I have always acknowledged that I come from a place of privilege — but I now need to acknowledge that that comes with a massive blind spot.”

Watch: Trudeau was asked at a town hall campaign event to “round to the nearest five” the number of times he wore racist makeup. Story continues after video.

Trudeau suggested that his election in 2008 as the MP for the “extraordinarily diverse” Quebec riding of Papineau opened his eyes about the challenges and discrimination that people of colour face.

The Liberal leader said he did not talk about moments when he coloured his skin before running in Papineau or seeking the Liberal leadership in 2013.

“I was embarrassed, particularly given the person that I’ve become and the leader that I’ve tried to be, one that fights for people’s rights and defends people against intolerance and racism,” he said. “And I didn’t want to talk about it with anyone because I’m not that person anymore.”

He also closed the door on resigning, saying he looks forward to continuing on in the campaign.

Watch: Singh’s emotional appeal after Trudeau’s apology

On Thursday morning, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh condemned Trudeau for the offensive costumes and said he has a lot to answer for.

“I am deeply troubled by what this means to Canada,” Singh told reporters in Hamilton, Ont. “This is so hurtful to so many people ... This is very painful for a lot of people.”

Singh is the only federal party leader who is a visible minority. He said the photos of Trudeau illustrate an “ongoing pattern of behaviour” where people have been mocked.

“Imagine what that would feel like if you’ve gone through pain in your life, if you’ve been treated differently, if you’ve faced insults, if you’ve faced physical violence because of the way you look,” Singh said. “I can tell you that it hurts.”

The NDP leader got emotional while addressing the controversy when he was asked about it a day earlier.

Scheer: Trudeau has been lying to Canadians

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was making a campaign stop in Saint-Hyacinthe, Que., where he accused Trudeau of lying to Canadians.

“He was asked specifically if there were other incidences and he said there was only one other incidence. Now we know there are at least three. And an apology based on a lie is not a real apology.”

Scheer referred to the incidents as “racist behaviour” and said they reflect a disturbing pattern of lies. “Once again we see with Justin Trudeau one set of rules for himself and one set of rules for the rest of us.”

The Conservative leader also revealed that his campaign team had received the video obtained by Global.

“Our campaign turned it over to a responsible news outlet for verification,” Scheer said.

The Tory leader said he had not seen the photos of Trudeau in the brown makeup until they were published by Time magazine.

While addressing the initial controversy Wednesday, the Liberal leader said he didn’t consider the makeup and outfit to be offensive at the time, but “now we know better.”

“I’m asking Canadians to forgive me for what I did,” Trudeau continued. “I shouldn’t have done that. It was a dumb thing to do. I’m disappointed in myself. I’m pissed off at myself for having done it. I apologize for it,” he added.

“This is something unacceptable and it is racist.”

This photo shows Justin Trudeau wearing brownface makeup during a 2001 "Arabian Nights" party in Vancouver.
Time Magazine
This photo shows Justin Trudeau wearing brownface makeup during a 2001 "Arabian Nights" party in Vancouver.

Trudeau, who has served as prime minister of Canada since 2015, said he was taking responsibility for his actions. He added that he has been “enthusiastic” about costumes in the past, and now he deeply regrets those actions.

The Liberal leader said Thursday he spoke with his children about the incidents. He also reached out to Liberal candidates across the country, acknowledging he hurt them and “let a lot of people down.”

The damning images have surfaced as Trudeau and the Liberals are in the midst of a federal election campaign. A recent poll suggests the Liberals are in a dead heat with the Conservatives for the most voter support, setting the stage for a tight race.

With files from Marina Fang and The Canadian Press

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