OTTAWA—Justin Trudeau pushed aside global mockery of his decisions years ago to dress in blackface, arguing Friday he’s focused on apologizing to Canadians—including his rival, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
Trudeau has reached out to Singh to talk since the release of three different images showing the Liberal leader in black- or brownface that Singh condemned as personally hurtful.
“I will be apologizing to him personally as a racialized Canadian,” Trudeau said Friday at an event in Toronto where he unveiled his party’s long-awaited gun control strategy.
“As I have been apologizing to Canadians who have suffered discrimination and intolerance their entire lives in ways some of us like me have never had to experience on a daily basis.”
Singh said he is open to talking to the Liberal leader, as long it remains a private conversation, declining to disclose what he’d say to Trudeau.
Where he wants to keep the focus, Singh said, is on all of the Canadians who’ve been hurt by what Trudeau did.
“I’ve spoken with young people who tell me that if the prime minister can mock their reality, can mock their struggles, then what’s to stop other people from saying ‘if the prime minister can make fun of people for what they’re going through, why can’t I?’,” Singh said at an event in Windsor, Ont.
The world’s press has wasted no time pouncing on three separate instances in the 1990s and 2000s where Trudeau acknowledged he committed the racist act of painting his face and hands black or brown for various costume events.
There were headlines around the globe, Trudeau was the butt of late-night comic jokes in the U.S. Thursday night, and even U.S. President Donald Trump weighed in Friday morning.
“I was hoping I wouldn’t be asked that question. … Justin. I’m surprised and I was more surprised when I saw the number of times and I’ve always had a good relationship with Justin. I just don’t know what to tell you. I was surprised by it, actually,” he said.
Trudeau sought to change the channel Friday by announcing his party’s marquee policy on gun control, which includes a pledge to ban assault rifles. He also promised to allow municipalities the right to ban hand guns, a policy also advocated by the NDP.
Singh was shopping his policy on expanding pharmacare and dental care on the campaign trail Friday.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was also campaigning on the health care theme, pledging $1.5 billion to buy new medical imaging equipment for facilities across the country. He said buying MRI and CT machines to replace aging ones will reduce wait times.
Scheer’s party was behind the release of video documenting a third time Trudeau wore blackface, this one shot in the early 1990s. His campaign received the clip and turned it over to Global TV. Trudeau said Friday that video was from a costume day for river guides at the white-water rafting company he worked for in the early 1990s.
Scheer said Friday he’s not aware of the existence of any more photos or videos. Trudeau has said he won’t say definitively there aren’t, as he doesn’t necessarily remember everything.
While Trudeau talked of a gun ban, Green Leader Elizabeth May promised a ban of her own—on the kinds of cars the vast majority of people drive. A ban on internal combustion engine passenger vehicles by 2030 is part of her party’s broader transportation strategy unveiled Friday which seeks to get to zero-carbon transportation in Canada.
People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier is trying to hold onto his own seat in Quebec and is spending today campaigning there, though he has a swing to Western Canada next week.