Justin Trudeau Under Fire For Wearing Blackface

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing calls for his resignation after multiple photos of him wearing brown and blackface have surfaced. TIME reports that the first incident, revealed in a resurfaced yearbook photo, occurred in 2001 when Trudeau, a teacher at West Point Grey Academy at the time, wore "a turban and robes with his face, neck and hands completely darkened," while attending an "Arabian Nights"-themed party at the private school.

Zita Astravas, the head of media relations for the Liberal Party of Canada, confirmed that it was indeed the leader of their party in the yearbook photo. Addressing the outrage, Trudeau spoke told reporters, "I shouldn't have done that. I should have known better and I didn't. I'm really sorry," he said. Answering a reporter's question about whether or not the costume was racist, Trudeau said, "Yes it was. I didn't consider it racist at the time, but now we know better."

As of this writing, Trudeau is in a very tight race with conservative opponent Andrew Scheer for an election that takes place on Oct. 21, 2019. But Trudeau said (via CNN) that he has no intention of dropping out the race, and will continue talking "about the work we have to do to make a better country together." He added, "And I am going to continue to stay focused on that and continue to work to fight intolerance and discrimination, even though obviously I made a mistake in the past."

Two more incidents of Trudeau donning blackface emerge

While addressing the controversy from the "Arabian Nights" photo, Justin Trudeau admitted to reporters that he'd previously worn blackface to perform a Jamaican folk song made popular by singer and civil-rights activist, Harry Belafonte. "When I was in high school I dressed up at a talent show and sang 'Day O.' With makeup on," he explained (via TIME).

Less than twelve hours after the first photo surfaced, a third incident was reported by Global News. In a grainy video, said to have "been shot in the early 1990s, Trudeau is "covered in what appears to be dark makeup and raising his hands" while making goofy faces. He is wearing a t-shirt and ripped jeans, with his arms and legs apparently painted in the makeup as well.

Two days before this scandal made international news, Politico claimed Trudeau had a "horse-race advantage" in his current election fight, but it's unclear if these incidents will hurt his chances.

Trudeau was already embroiled in another scandal

You'd think that wearing blackface would be enough to sink any political campaign, but Justin Trudeau was in the middle of yet another scandal before these photos and video emerged. In February 2019, the The Globe and Mail (via CNN) published an explosive story stating that the Office of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was being accused of interfering in a corruption case against a prominent engineering company.

Per the bombshell report, Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former minister of justice and attorney general, was "pressured to help" SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec construction company, in settling a criminal case and avoiding prosecution for allegedly bribing Libyan government officials for contracts. Although Trudeau denied the allegations, Wilson-Raybould and other member of the Prime Minister's cabinet resigned, including his top aide, Gerald Butts, and Treasury Board president Jane Philpott.

According to Politico, authorities are pausing their investigation until after the election, but Trudeau's conservative opponent Andrew Scheer took the opportunity to strike at his rival during their political battle. "He has lied. He has looked Canadians in the eye and said things he knew was not true," Scheer said before his first campaign event, adding, "We made the case that he has lost the moral authority to govern."

There might be more blackface photos

Justin Trudeau left open the possibility that there might be more photos of him wearing blackface. Saying he was "deeply sorry" and that he "hurt" his "constituency," the Prime Minister told reporters in Winnipeg that he doesn't remember exactly how many times he's darkened his face, the New York Post reports.

"I am wary of being definitive about this because recent pictures that came out I had not remembered," he said. "And the question is, how can you not remember that? The fact is, I didn't understand how hurtful this is to people who live with discrimination every single day."

He went on to say that he understands his "place of privilege" that leaves him "with a massive blindspot." So why didn't Trudeau mention the photos he did remember during the 2015 vetting process for his first campaign?  "Quite frankly, I was embarrassed," he explained. "It's not something that represents the person I've become or the leader I try to be."

Want to learn more about Justin Trudeau? Check out more here about the embattled Canadian Prime Minister.