Wednesday 15/07/2020 - 03:45 pm

Trudeau apologizes after 2001 photo surfaces of him in brownface

2019.09.19 09:52

- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized Wednesday after a 2001 brownface photo from a school yearbook surfaced taken when he was a 29-year-old teacher, adding turbulence for Trudeau to an already choppy re-election campaign.

He told reporters while traveling on an airplane that the photo is from 2001 when he was a teacher at the West Point Grey Academy. He was attending an end-of-year gala “where the theme was Arabian Nights.”

“I dressed up in an Aladdin costume, and put makeup on,” he continued. "I shouldnt have done it. I should have known better, but I didnt," he said. "And Im really sorry."

The existence of the photograph was first reported by Time Magazine and was confirmed to Time by spokeswoman Zita Astravas of his re-election campaign.

“He attended with friends and colleagues dressed as a character from Aladdin,” she told the magazine.

Canadas New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh, who was participating in a town hall meeting when the news of the photo broke, said according to the Toronto Sun: “I think he needs to answer for it. I think he’s got 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 color of their skin, face challenges and barriers and obstacles in their life.”

In the same remarks to reporters Wednesday, Trudeau also admitted that he had once dressed up in a similar way during a high school talent show, saying he wore "makeup" to perform "Day-O",  a traditional Jamaican folk tune sung by legendary African American performer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte.

Trudeaus apology and admission comes after American politics has also confronted scandals involving blackface. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, remains in office after a photograph surfaced that had been published in a medical school yearbook 35 years earlier.