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Canada’s Justin Trudeau can’t say how often he wore blackface

Media captionTrudeau: “I come from a place of privilege”

Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau says he cannot remember how often he wore blackface, as a row deepens ahead of an election in October.

He was speaking after more images of him wearing black make-up when he was younger emerged.

“I am wary of being definitive about this because the recent pictures that came out, I had not remembered,” he told reporters in Winnipeg.

The revelations have rattled his campaign in a tight re-election race.

The images are so embarrassing for the prime minister because he has positioned himself as a champion of social justice, inclusivity and diversity.

Image copyright
Globe and Mail, Global News, Time Magazine

When his cabinet was sworn in in 2015, half the appointments were women; three were Sikhs and two members were from indigenous communities.

What are the latest images?

A video came to light on Thursday in which he is seen in a white T-shirt and torn jeans, his face and limbs covered in black make-up.

In the footage, shot in the 1990s, he is seen laughing, throwing his hands in the air, sticking his tongue out and pulling faces.

Mr Trudeau would have been in his late teens or early 20s at the time.

Blackface, which was more prevalent in the past, particularly in the entertainment industry, involves white people painting their faces darker – and is widely condemned as a racist caricature.

Media caption“Long time ago” – Canadians react to Trudeau brownface images

What about the other episodes?

On Wednesday, the embattled PM apologised for wearing brownface make-up at a gala at a private Vancouver school where he taught nearly two decades ago.

The 2001 yearbook picture obtained by Time Magazine shows Mr Trudeau, then aged 29, with skin-darkening make-up on his face and hands at the West Point Grey Academy.

Mr Trudeau dressed up in the photo in an Aladdin costume.

Image copyright
Time Magazine

Another photo has emerged showing Mr Trudeau, then a high school student, performing in a talent show, again wearing blackface. He was singing Day-O, a Jamaican folk song popularised by American civil rights activist Harry Belafonte.

How did Trudeau respond?

The prime minister made his second appearance before reporters since the scandal broke in Winnipeg on Thursday.

He said: “Darkening your face regardless of the context or the circumstances is always unacceptable because of the racist history of blackface.

“I should have understood that then and I never should have done it.”

Mr Trudeau said he had let a lot of people down. “I come to reflect on that and ask for forgiveness.”

He said that failing to realise how hurtful his actions were could have resulted from “a massive blind spot” due to his privileged background.

What reaction has there been?

Referring to the brownface episode, Andrew Scheer, leader of the opposition Conservatives, said the picture was racist in 2001 and was racist now.

“What Canadians saw this evening is someone with a total lack of judgement and integrity and someone who is not fit to govern this country,” he said on Wednesday.

New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh, a Sikh, said the image was “troubling” and “insulting”.

Canada’s Justin Trudeau can’t say how often he wore blackface

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