Liberal sweetheart Justin Trudeau slammed for racist photos just weeks before election

Support us and go ad-free

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s campaign is facing a growing scandal after a yearbook photo surfaced of him in ‘brownface‘ make-up at a 2001 costume party and two other similar incidents also came to light. With Canada’s election just a month away, this could be devastating for Liberal sweetheart Trudeau.

The mask slips

Time magazine published the photo on Wednesday, saying it was taken from the yearbook from the West Point Grey Academy, a private school in British Columbia where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics. It shows the then 29-year-old Trudeau in a turban and robe with dark make-up on his hands, face and neck.

Trudeau, who launched his re-election campaign a week ago, also revealed that this was not the first time he darkened his face. He said he once did it while performing a version of Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat Song (Day-O) during a talent show.

Read on...

“I should have known better then, but I didn’t, and I am deeply sorry for it,” Trudeau said.

Global News also reported on a third instance, broadcasting a brief video of Trudeau in blackface while raising his hands in the air and sticking out his tongue. A spokeswoman for Trudeau’s Liberal Party said the footage was from the early 1990s. The Canadian TV network said it was not clear where the tape was made.

Trudeau in trouble?

This could all spell more trouble for Trudeau, who polls say is facing a serious challenge on October 21 from Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

Liberals around the world have admired Trudeau’s apparently pro-diversity policies in the Trump era, with Canada accepting more refugees than the US. His government has also legalised cannabis.

However, the 47-year-old son of late prime minister Pierre Trudeau was already vulnerable following one of the biggest scandals in Canadian political history, which arose when Trudeau’s former attorney general said he improperly pressured her to halt the prosecution of a company in Quebec. Trudeau has said he was standing up for jobs, but the scandal rocked the government and led to resignations and a drop in his ratings earlier this year.

His opponents on the left, meanwhile, have responded firmly to the ‘brownface’ scandal. New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, for example, said:

I am deeply troubled by what this means to Canada. Young kids are not just going to see just one or two but multiple images of the prime minister mocking their lived reality… This is so hurtful to so many Canadians.

Green leader Elizabeth May, meanwhile, said:

Hope for the Canadian left?

Many on the left see Trudeau for what he is – a corporate stooge with a progressive mask. And workers showed that earlier this month during a Labour Day parade:

Under Trudeau’s watch, Canadian authorities have invaded Indigenous people’s land in defence of a gas pipeline. And just a day after declaring a ‘climate emergency’, his government approved a huge pipeline project:

Trudeau has also thrown Palestinians living under violent Israeli occupation under the bus by attacking the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The alternatives to Trudeau on the left are Singh’s NDP and May’s Greens. They are currently battling for third place, but have some very attractive proposals:

The Greens, meanwhile, are campaigning on “transitioning Canada to a green economy while also lifting Canadians out of poverty, abolishing tuition fees and bringing in national pharmacare”. And there are suggestions that concern in Canada over the global climate crisis may be a priority for many voters:




Either way, Trudeau is not an option for true progressives. Because he’s very much a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And with the current ‘brownface’ scandal, it looks like his mask has finally slipped.


Featured image and additional content via Press Association

We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support

The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.

The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.

So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.

Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. I think here at the Canary, you know very well how smears work… (you report daily how a certain decent labour leader get so much false accusations thrown at)… Yes, the Canadian liberal party has been traditionally a pro-business party, right wing economically, left wing socially. But this, in the eyes of the Canadian Conservatives, is still seen as “extreme left” and socialism. And this is from the right wing news outlets that the “news” was broken. Don’t be fooled.

    2. I agree with Mr. French. What’s curious here is what someone does 19 years ago is as relevant today as then, as if a sense of purity in the divine sense is required to be leader. It shows the “right ” or whatever they are like this idea, and its on a personnel level which has nothing to do with the issues.
      Anyone running then for election must be perfect without questionable life experieinces. I think that nearly rules us all out. The humour in Monty Python’s “life of Brian” about the Mass of people, and what their requirements are for belief is utterly brilliant.
      Of course anone who doesn’t ponder questionable moments in their Life has to be a liar, and we know the “right ” people fake it continuosly.. The Catholic church, while sexually abusing children for over half a century and still not pondering the reason why enough to make changes is very telling how strong this “right” icon has to be real.
      Politicians are to become Icons?
      Nonetheless the the idea to ship Bitumen through the West Coast is a dead loser, instead of reforming our economy for a percieved future by using our brains.
      Icons go extinct.

      1. The pipeline thing is an annoyance indeed. But the alternative of s conservative government for Canada is even worse. They are climate deniers and their last stint at government under Stephen Harper was far far worse. Entire academic archives, monitoring the biology of the St Lawrence, were burnt down. Deregulation in the rail sector, combined with cuts in regulation enforcement, led to a staggering increase in rail spillage, and culminated in a small town burning down. In short, a pipeline is far safer than rail, which is the way oil is now shipped south.

        Or course, for the planet, “leaving it in the ground” is our best hope. But Canada is one of the largest producer and that would destroy millions of jobs (not a vote winner)

    3. Heaven help any politician found out to have ‘blacked up’ for the part of Othello during his school days. Neither youthful ‘insensitivity’ nor absence of a pupil of suitable hue to play Othello offers any mitigation in the eyes of loud mouthed, yet dimwitted, arbiters of decency.

      Similarly, use of a false nose when playing Shylock is utterly unforgivable.

      All ‘ethnic’ roles must be played by people of the same ethnicity regardless of acting talent.

      Problems arise for people who are of mixed-race, e.g. mulatto and ‘half-caste’. For instance, may a person of brownish rather than black skin accentuate their darkness/whiteness in order convincingly to take an acting role for which a parent was by appearance ideally suited?

      Taking it further, is not an Englishman playing the part of a Frenchman ‘racist’ and mocking the French?

      To contemplate what goes on in traditional English Christmas pantomime would be too upsetting for PC folk.

      The Nazis had a similar problem when considering degrees of ‘racial impurity’ unacceptable for conferring Aryan privileges. Drafting the Nuremberg Laws (1935) required conscientious effort by fine legal minds; this is evinced from the Protocol emerging from the Wannsee Conference (1942). Clearly, we nowadays require a similar commission to specify racial/ethnic boundaries the crossing of which by ‘white’ people is criminally ‘insensitive’.

      Oddly, one observes few, if any, ‘non-white’ faces among vocal protesters against alleged ‘racial slurs’. Perhaps, just like the bulk of the ‘white’ population they have better things to do with their time?

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.