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.
“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.
Jagmeet Singh says growing up he fought back against racists, but people who don't have that ability will be hurt by Trudeau's brownface incident: 'It's going to hurt to see this. It's going to hurt them a lot."#cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/j7Rt2PbpUs
— CBC Politics (@CBCPolitics) September 19, 2019
— CTV News (@CTVNews) September 19, 2019
#BREAKING NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says the public sees one Mr. Trudeau in public, very friendly, but behind closed doors it’s a different Mr. Trudeau.
Singh says Trudeau mocks people and their experiences.
— Natasha Fatah (@NatashaFatah) September 18, 2019
— Edgar M. Toro (@edgarmtoro) September 19, 2019
Green leader Elizabeth May, meanwhile, said:
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.
— Elizabeth May (@ElizabethMay) September 19, 2019
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:
According to local sources, transit workers and postal workers who were ahead of the PM in the parade turned backward to protest Trudeau with some members of the parade chanting "Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer, same old bullshit, different year."https://t.co/q98j1AASO3
— Tom Parkin (@TomPark1n) September 2, 2019
At the Labour Day parade in Hamilton Ontario, Justin Trudeau was jeered by workers who feel he had no place there. Those workers were right to stand up to Trudeau and his disingenuous support for working people #elxn43 https://t.co/f3APH5RAZr
— Christo Aivalis (@christoaivalis) September 2, 2019
Labour activists & workers are the backbone of the Cdn economy
Today, they booed Justin Trudeau out of the Labour Day Parade
Because, it's time to reject a govt on the side of Corporations
— The People For Jagmeet Singh (@People4Jagmeet) September 2, 2019
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:
This is just so perfectly Trudeau, King of Gesture Politics. Declares a "climate emergency" one day, approves a massive tar sands pipeline the next. All symbol, no substance, no matter the stakes. This will not stand. https://t.co/aWjaXaPYfW
— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) June 18, 2019
This #elxn43 is about choices.
For PM Trudeau that means spending billions on fossil fuel subsidies while spending less than Harper's Conservatives as a % of GDP on housing.
— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) September 17, 2019
People in #OttawaCentre know very well that 4 years of a Trudeau Liberal government haven't made life any easier, while things for the ultra-rich are better than ever.
— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) September 14, 2019
— Sameera Khan (@SameeraKhan) September 19, 2019
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:
— Rosie Emery (@RosieEmery) September 18, 2019
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
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