A recently surfaced photo of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wearing make-up to darken his skin at a party in 2001 has sparked controversy and prompted an apology from Trudeau.
“This is something I deeply, deeply regret,” Trudeau said in Winnipeg on Thursday, acknowledging the photos of him in darkened makeup were “racist.”
The picture in question, published by Time magazine, was a photo from a 2001 yearbook from a private school where Trudeau used to teach, according to CBS News. Trudeau was reported to have said the costume was from an “Arabian Nights” theme party.
“I have worked all my life to try to create opportunities for people, fight against racism and intolerance,” Trudeau explained to a televised news conference on his campaign aircraft, a report from Al Jazeera said.
“I can say I made a mistake when I was younger and I wish I hadn’t,” The Canadian prime minister said. “I wish I had known better then, but I didn’t and I’m deeply sorry for it.”
“I have always acknowledged that I come from a place of privilege, but I now need to acknowledge that comes with a massive blind spot,” Trudeau said, stressing that it was “something racist to do.”
For “communities and people who live with intersectionalities and face discrimination, it is a significant thing that is very hurtful,” Trudeau said.
Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer expressed his disappointment in the controversy, and that he was “extremely shocked and disappointed” after he “learned of Justin Trudeau’s actions this evening.”
“Wearing brown face is an act of open mockery and racism,” Scheer said. “What Canadians saw this evening is someone with a complete lack of judgment and integrity and someone who’s not fit to govern this country.”
“Any time we hear examples of brownface or blackface, it’s making a mockery of someone for what they live and what their lived experiences are,” New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh said, while pointing out Trudeau’s behavior to be “troubling” and “insulting.”
“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? Racism is real,” Singh said.
National correspondent for The Globe and Mail newspaper, Steven Chase, called the incident something that “has basically thrown [Trudeau’s] campaign plans off track for the moment,” Al Jazeera reports.
“It’s a bit of a challenge for his brand, and voters who are undecided…He’s going to have to convince them this is just a blip,” Chase said.