Trudeau faces his past

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For the third time, Justin Trudeau was seen in a video wearing blackface.

Shot in the early 1990s, the location of the video is unclear.

It features Trudeau in dark make-up, a white T-shirt, and ripped jeans, making faces and laughing.

The video was given to Global News by a source within the Conservative Party of Canada, and a senior member of the Liberal campaign confirmed Trudeau’s presence. 

“I did not see the photos of Trudeau in blackface or brownface until Thursday morning. I was completely shocked. Trudeau and I are the exact same age which even made it more shocking” said Lori Campbell, the NDP candidate for Waterloo. 

Media started surfacing online on Sept. 18, and Trudeau issued an official apology first on the same day and another aimed especially at racialised Canadians on Sept. 19. 

“[It] mmediately brought me back to a time when I was a child, under 10, and I remembered a white adult dressing in their rendition of ‘Indigenous costume’ and painting their skin brown. I did not have words to know that it was racist, but as an Indigenous child, I knew that what I saw made my stomach turn and that it was very upsetting for me.” 

Bardish Chagger, the Liberal candidate for Waterloo, disagreed.

“I know Justin Trudeau and he is not racist. I consider Justin Trudeau a colleague and a friend; I have full confidence in him as the leader that Canada needs now more than ever as we continue to move Canada forward,” said Chagger. 

Both Kirstin Wright, Waterloo’s  Green Party candiadte, and Jerry Zhang, Waterloo’s Conservative candidate, didn’t respond to requests for comment. 

The first video showed Trudeau at an ‘Arabian Nights’ themed gala in 2001,  and a second instance involved a photo of him with “make-up on” from when he was in high school.

“By the time I was in high school, I definitely knew it was not okay to do something like this. And, by the time I was 29, I completely understood that it was racist.“

“Dominant EuroCanadian folks “dressing up” in the “other’s” (marginalized, racialized folks) culture and/or identity expression for the dominant group’s entertainment is a racist act,” Lori Campbell, the NDP candidate for Waterloo, told Imprint. 

“Trudeau’s privilege has been seeping through. This is not a one-off. As recently as this past March, Trudeau mocked an Indigenous woman who was protesting at his fundraiser because people in her community of Grassy Narrows are sick and are dying because of Mercury poisoning. She was pleading for help from the Liberal government who promised to help them. What did he do? He mocked her!” Campbell said.  

Chagger, the leader of the Liberal-controlled House of Commons, said knowing Trudeau as a person makes her believe the prime minister isn’t racist. 

“I know his apology was genuine. I could tell that he was mad at himself for making such a poor decision and for hurting so many people. I know this would never be his intent,” Chagger said. 

“I accept his apology because he acknowledged that it is racist and wrong today, and it was racist and wrong then [and because] Trudeau said he would get back to anyone looking for a response and will work toward regaining the trust of all citizens. Justin Trudeau acknowledged it was hurtful and he took responsibility for his actions,” Chagger added. 

“Being born and raised in Waterloo Region and as the child of immigrants, I’ve seen this community grow, and I know that we can and need to do even better…. Yes we have progressed but this demonstrates to me that it’s important that we continue the work that we’ve been doing to learn, evolve, and grow as a society and an even more inclusive Canada.” 

Chagger pointed to Justin Trudeau’s political record and future goals in his defence.

In the days following the scandal, the Liberals have only lost one or two percentage points of support according to polls. 

 Still the odds-on favourite to win, Trudeau’s apology has saved him from collapse, for now.  

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