Trudeau apologises for 'brownface' Aladdin costume

Trudeau apologises for 'brownface' Aladdin costume
Trudeau was seen wearing wearing a turban and robes with his face, neck and hands darkened at a fancy dress gala in 2001.
2 min read
19 September, 2019
Trudeau has apologised for the photo [Getty]


Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday said that he was sorry for wearing "brownface" makeup at a party 18 years ago, after a photo emerged of him at an Aladdin-themed party in 2001.

Trudeau is taking part in a re-election campaign dogged by controversy when the photo emerged showing Trudeau, aged 29, wearing a turban and robes with his face, neck and hands darkened at a fancy dress gala in 2001.

The Canadian PM spoke to reporters on a plane saying: "Now I recognise it was something racist to do".

Trudeau confirmed it was him in the photo "at the school's annual dinner which had a costume theme of 'Arabian Nights'"

"I have worked all my life to try to create opportunities for people, fight against racism and intolerance," he told a televised news conference on his campaign aircraft.

"I can say I made a mistake when I was younger and I wish I hadn't. I wish I had known better then, but I didn't and I'm deeply sorry for it."

"(For) communities and people who live with intersectionalities and face discrimination, it is a significant thing that is very hurtful."

Time magazine published the photograph one week into a federal election campaign with Trudeau's Liberal Party in a tight contest against the Conservatives led by Andrew Scheer.

Trudeau, 47, whose party won a landslide victory in 2015, but a number of controversies have given the prime minister more of a battle in his election campaign.

The latest is a black-and-white picture of Trudeau in brownface that appears in the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private school where he taught at the time, the US-based Time magazine said.

Trudeau also admitted to wearing dark makeup singing Harry Belafonte's 1950s hit Day O (Banana Boat Song) at a separate high school talent contest.

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the third-place New Democratic Party, reacted by calling the behaviour "troubling" and "insulting."

"Anytime we hear examples of brown face or blackface, it's making a mockery of someone for what they live and what their lived experiences are," he said.

"What does that say about what he thinks about people who, because of who they are, because of the colour of their skin, face challenges and barriers and obstacles in their life? Racism is real."

Scheer, who has been the prime minister's most ardent critic, pounding him on ethics lapses, said he was "shocked and disappointed" over Trudeau's "lack of judgement and integrity" in this matter and said he was "not fit to govern this country."