Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose reelection campaign began just one week ago, apologized on Wednesday for appearing in “brownface” in a picture dating from 2001.
The picture was found in an old yearbook from Trudeau’s time as a teacher at the West Point Grey Academy in British Columbia. In it, the future prime minister can be seen dressed in Arab-style garb with his face painted brown, at a gathering dubbed an “Arabian Nights” party.
Trudeau told reporters that he came in costume as a character from Aladdin.
“I should have known better then but I didn’t, and I am deeply sorry for it,” Trudeau told reporters on his plane.
The prime minister then admitted that it wasn’t the first time he had appeared in costume in order to portray a member of another ethnicity.
“When I was in high school, I dressed up at a talent show and sang Day-O,” Trudeau said, referring to the traditional Jamaican song made famous by Harry Belafonte. Trudeau said he performed the song with makeup on, apparently referring to blackface.
Trudeau has drawn accolades from progressives both within Canada and internationally for his liberal policies, including accepting more refugees into his country than President Trump has for the U.S.
However, in addition to the recent scandal, he was caught up in controversy earlier this year when Canada’s former attorney general revealed that the prime minister pressured her to drop the criminal prosecution of a Quebec company.
Trudeau’s conservative challenger, Andrew Scheer, commented that brownface was racist in 2001 just as much as in 2019.
Update 11:45 a.m.: A third instance of Trudeau in racist makeup was released by the Canadian paper Global News, this time in video. Trudeau is wearing blackface, and his identity in the video was confirmed by a senior Liberal campaign member. It is not clear where Trudeau was filmed, and the video dates to the early 1990s.