'Darkening your face...is always unacceptable': Justin Trudeau apologizes to Canadians for brownface, blackface images

Justin Trudeau continues to ask for Canadians’ forgiveness after three instances of the Liberal party leader in blackface and brownface makeup emerged Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

“Darkening your face...is always unacceptable because of the racist history of blackface,” Trudeau said in Winnipeg on Thursday. “I should have understood that then and I never should have done it.”

Trudeau began by apologizing to racialized Canadians who “face discrimination everyday.”

“What I did hurt them, hurt people who shouldn’t have to face intolerance and discrimination,” he said. “It is something absolutely unacceptable to do.”

The Liberal party leader recognized publicly that his “privilege” gave him a “massive blindspot” in understanding the realities of people who deal with injustices across Canada and beyond.

“The fact is, I didn’t understand how hurtful this is to people who live with discrimination everyday,” he said. “I didn’t see that from the layers of privilege that I have and for that I am deeply sorry and I apologize.”

But Trudeau, the son of the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, former Canadian Prime Minister, said his father raised him to act more responsibly.

“My father raised me to try to defend people's rights,” the Liberal party leader said. “One of our family’s mottos is provide counterweights...If you’re strong you need to go where your strength is most needed.”

“This is certainly something I think my father wouldn’t be pleased with...but perhaps would feel that taking responsibility for things is important.”

When asked is he feels this scandal should result in him stepping aside and letting someone else lead the party, and ultimately the country, Trudeau confirmed he will continue to push through to the fall election.

“Canadians have an important choice to make on Oct. 21 and I trust Canadians to make the right choice,” he said

“I certainly hope they will continue to support us...but I know they might not. All I hope for is that Canadians take very seriously this responsibility.”

Trudeau faces public in town hall

The Liberal party leader held a town hall in Saskatoon on Thursday night. When faced with questions and comments about this scandal, Trudeau continued to apologize.

“I’m not going to make light of the situation,” he said. “I am deeply, deeply sorry...I also take responsibility for the fact that I lacked respect.”

A man wearing a yellow vest stood up at the town hall to tell Trudeau that he shouldn’t apologize, he would want the Liberal party leader to teach his kids and said that Canadians should be focusing on the present. Trudeau responded by apologizing for his actions once more and saying that leaders should not hurt people who face discrimination.

“There was no excusing what I did and I’m sorry what I did it,” he said.


Where it all started

Trudeau initially apologized after TIME released an image of him in brownface and costume at an Arabian Nights-themed gala for a private school in Vancouver where he taught in 2001.

“I’m going to be asking Canadians to forgive me for what I did,” Trudeau said after the original photo was released. “It was a dumb thing to do...I’m pissed off at myself.

“It was something that I didn’t think was racist at the time.”

A journalist from The Globe and Mail shared a statement from the West Point Grey Academy, which held the Arabian Nights gala.

“We recognize cultural sensitivities have evolved over the past 18 years,” the statment reads.

Later that night, an additional photo was released after Trudeau said there was one more time when he painted his face - at a high school talent show where he performed the song Day-O. The images shows Trudeau in blackface makeup.

Thursday morning, Global News released a video of Trudeau, allegedly from the early 1990s, where he is once again in blackface.


An additional photo of the Liberal party leader from the Vancouver gala also began circulating on Thursday.

When Trudeau was asked why he did not disclose the additional time he wore blackface makeup when initially asked on Wednesday night, the Liberal party leader said he did not remember the moment captured in the Global News video.

“I am wary of being definitive about this because the recent picture that came out I had not remembered,” he said on Thursday.

The backlash floods in

Other federal party leaders publicly responded to the release of the photos and the video.

“I believe that Canadians might have been able to accept his apology if he had been open and truthful,” Andrews Scheer said on Thursday morning while campaigning in Quebec.

The Conservative party leader said he became aware of the initial photo last night when TIME published it and saw the video this morning when it was released by Global News.

Scheer added that his campaign was made aware of the video by “an individual” and turned it over to a news outlet for verification. He did not provide a timeline for when the Conservative campaign initially saw that video.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said that Canadians will have to answer the question of whether or not Trudeau is in fact racist.

“I can tell you that I am deeply troubled by what this means to Canada,” Singh said on Thursday morning.

“Young kids are going to see not just one or two but multiple images of the prime minister mocking their lived reality. This is so hurtful to so many Canadians.”

Interest groups, politicians and people around the world continue to comment on the photos and the video, in addition to the apologies from Trudeau himself: