Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing backlash after a photo surfaced this week of him wearing brownface makeup at an Arabian Nights party back in 2001.
In a photo obtained by Time magazine, the PM wore brownface makeup to a party at the private school where he was teaching in the spring of 2001. The night was reportedly themed “Arabian Nights.”
In the shot, Trudeau is posing with co-workers, while wearing a turban and robes with his face, neck and hands completely darkened.
Time says the pic appears in the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, the private day school where Trudeau was a teacher.
After the photo surfaced, Zita Astravas, the media relations lead of the Liberal Party of Canada, released a statement to Time: “It was a photo taken while he was teaching in Vancouver, at the school’s annual dinner which had a costume theme of ‘Arabian Nights.’ He attended with friends and colleagues dressed as a character from Aladdin.”
Trudeau addressed the photograph to the media Wednesday evening.
“I shouldn’t have done that,” he said. “I should have known better but I didn’t and I’m really sorry.”
Reporters asked the PM if there was any other time he had dressed in blackface or brownface. He said that he did dress up in blackface in high school during a talent show with “makeup” on and sang “Day-O”.
Journalist Evan Solomon tweeted a photo from that talent show:
Trudeau said that he deeply regrets both incidents (see video below).
The National Council of Canadian Muslims is calling for the PM to apologize for the offensive image.
“Seeing the Prime Minister in brownface/blackface is deeply saddening,” the NCCM’s Executive Director Mustafa Farooq. “The wearing of blackface/brownface is reprehensible and hearkens back to a history of racism, slavery, and Orientalist mythology that is unacceptable. While we recognize that people can change and evolve over two decades, it is critical that the Prime Minister immediately and unequivocally apologizes for his wearing of brownface/blackface.”
Leader of the federal Green Party, Elizabeth May tweeted on Wednesday night: “I am deeply shocked by the racism shown in the photograph of Justin Trudeau. He must apologize for the harm done and commit to learning and appreciating the requirement to model social justice leadership at all levels of government. In this matter he has failed.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh responds to the photo, calling it “troubling.”
“Any time we hear examples of brownface or blackface it’s really, it’s making a mockery of someone for what they live and what their lived experiences are,” Singh said before Trudeau addressed the media.
Trudeau began his re-election campaign earlier this month.