Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau makes a statement in regards to a video from the 1990s showing him in "blackface" during an event in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. (CBC)

Trudeau apologizes to Canada’s racial minorities over blackface scandal

Less than a day after Justin Trudeau had to apologize for dressing in “brownface” at a school gala in 2001, the Liberal Leader had to say sorry again Thursday after a new video surfaced showing him in blackface in the 1990s.

Speaking to reporters in Winnipeg, Trudeau said he deeply regretted his racist actions and did not understand at the time how profoundly offensive his actions were to people from racial minorities who experience daily discrimination because of their skin colour.

“What I did hurt them. Hurt people who shouldn’t have to face intolerance and discrimination because of their identity. This is something that I deeply, deeply regret,” Trudeau said.

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

The new apology came after Global News published a video that appears to show a teenage Trudeau in dark makeup and raising his hands in the air while laughing, sticking his tongue out and making faces.

In the short video Trudeau is dressed in a white T-shirt and ripped jeans and it appears as though his arms and legs are also covered in makeup.

On Wednesday, Trudeau, 47, said he was “deeply sorry” for dressing in brownface makeup after a photograph of him in costume at a gala was published by Time magazine earlier in the day.

The photograph shows a 29-year-old Trudeau wearing a turban and robes and wearing dark makeup covering his face, neck and hands completely.

Speaking to reporters on his campaign plane, Trudeau apologized for his actions, saying that he now recognizes his actions were racist.

‘Deeply sorry’

A photo showing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, second from right, at a 2001 costume party – his hands and face blackened with makeup — was published by Time Magazine Wednesday. They say it was published in the yearbook from the West Point Grey Academy, a private school in Vancouver, B.C., where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics. (Handout TIME Magazine/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“In 2001, when I was a teacher in Vancouver, I attended a gala. The theme was Arabian Nights. I dressed up in an Aladdin costume and put makeup on. I shouldn’t have done that. I should have known better, but I didn’t and I’m really sorry.

“I take responsibility for my decision to do that. I shouldn’t have done it. I should have known better. It was something that I didn’t think was racist at the time, but now I recognize it was something racist to do and I am deeply sorry.”

Trudeau also admitted there was a second instance of racist behaviour.

“When I was in high school I dressed up at a talent show and sang Day O with makeup on,” he said.

‘Not fit to govern this country’

This image was part of a an April 2001 newsletter from the West Point Grey Academy. (Newsletter of West Point Grey Academy)

Speaking to reporters while campaigning in Quebec on Thursday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said both incidents prove that Trudeau is not fit to hold the office of prime minister.

“I believe he has long lost the moral authority to govern,” Scheer said. “And I think after his inability to tell the truth last night he’s continuing to show Canadians that he is not fit to govern this country, that he’s not willing to hold himself to standards that he has asked other people to hold themselves to and that he can’t tell the truth to Canadians.”

Scheer admitted that it was the Conservative campaign that had passed on the latest video to Global News but would not say how long did the party know of the existence of the video and why it decided to release video now.

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer comments on a photo from 2001 surfacing of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau wearing “brownface” as he makes a statement on the tarmac in Sherbrooke, Quebec on Wednesday Sept. 18, 2019. (Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“I first became aware of the photos last night when Time Magazine published them, I first saw the video this morning when it was published this morning,” Scheer said. “And I can say that there was an individual who was concerned by this and brought it to our campaign and our campaign did turn it to a news outlet for verification.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Wednesday night Trudeau’s “troubling” and “insulting” behaviour was making “mockery” of minorities and their experiences.

“I think he needs to answer for it,” Singh said. “I think he needs to answer the question why he did that and what does that say about what he thinks about people who, because of who they are, because of the colour of their skin, face challenges and barriers and obstacles in their life.”

No lasting effect

Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, said he doesn’t expect a lasting effect from the scandal on Trudeau’s campaign in his home province.

“I think the type of reaction from the opposition, particularly the over-the-top reaction from Mr. Scheer risks turning Mr. Trudeau into a bit of a martyr in Quebec,” Jedwab told Radio Canada International. “I don’t think in Quebec this thing has a lot of uptake, people will think this is a mistake from his youth, at best.”

Trudeau has a strong track record on the issues of diversity, Jedwab added.

“He is probably the most progressive prime minister we’ve had on diversity issues in Canada’s history,” Jedwab sadi.

For the Liberals the strategic question is whether this controversy will have any traction outside of Quebec, particularly in and around Toronto, he added.

“The respective road to the victory for the two dominant parties – the Conservatives and the Liberals – is Ontario, which is a very multi-ethnic, multiracial province,” Jedwab said. “This thing can only benefit the Conservatives if in Toronto people chose to make this a factor in their decision in terms whether they are going to vote for the Liberals or not.”

The controversy could, however, have implications for Canada’s international image because of the way Canada projects itself globally as a leading country that supports multiculturalism and diversity, Jedwab said.

“This image runs very counter to the way in which Canada projects itself around the globe as multicultural, antiracist, open society,” Jedwab said, “which is the discourse Mr. Trudeau practices and preaches when he travels abroad.”

In an environment of growing hostility to diversity and multiculturalism in parts of Europe and the U.S., Trudeau has been a champion of those issues globally, he said.

With files from CBC News

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