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Justin Trudeau: New video of Canada’s PM in blackface

Justin Trudeau in "black-face" make-up

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Global News

A new video has emerged of Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, wearing blackface, a day after he admitted such behaviour was racist.

He apologised on Wednesday after photos of two similar episodes – one when he was a teacher and another a student – came to light.

His Liberal Party says the video is genuine and dates from the early 1990s.

The revelations come amid campaigning for the 21 October election, when Mr Trudeau hopes to win a second term.

What is in the video?

The footage, first obtained by Global News, shows Mr Trudeau in a white T-shirt and torn jeans.

His face and limbs appear to be covered in black make-up. 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.

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.

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Time Magazine

Addressing the image, Mr Trudeau said he “deeply regretted” his actions and “should have known better”.

The second image to emerge on Wednesday shows Mr Trudeau performing in a talent show as a student at high school.

He wore blackface and sang Day-O, a Jamaican folk song popularised by American civil rights activist Harry Belafonte.

How did Trudeau respond?

The images are acutely embarrassing for the prime minister, especially as he has made progressive policies a signature issue.

Speaking to journalists after the Time article was published, Mr Trudeau said he had dressed up in the photo in an Aladdin costume at an Arabian Nights-themed gala.

“I take responsibility for my decision to do that. I shouldn’t have done it.

“I should have known better. It was something that I didn’t think was racist at the time, but now I recognise it was something racist to do and I am deeply sorry.”

Media captionJustin Trudeau told reporters: “I should have known better, but I didn’t”

Campaign itinerary scrapped

By Jessica Murphy, BBC News, Toronto

There is no doubt that these images will make it more difficult for Mr Trudeau’s bid for re-election.

His team recognises how damaging these images could be.

They have scrapped his campaign itinerary for Thursday as they scramble to come up with a broader response than his apology on Wednesday night.

A lot will count on how Mr Trudeau addresses these images and whether he can convince Liberal voters that he truly understands why his decision to wear blackface or brownface could be so hurtful to many of the Canadians he represents.

This will also have an impact on the election campaign itself, where suddenly the issues of race and racism have been brought into the open and straight to the forefront.

What is brownface?

Like blackface, brownface typically refers to when someone paints their face darker to appear like someone with a different skin colour.

The practice is associated with minstrel performances – in past centuries, white actors could be seen with their faces painted black, caricaturing black people, and perpetuating offensive and racist stereotypes.

In recent years, there have been several controversies involving politicians, celebrities and brands accused of blackface, brownface or yellowface.

On Wednesday, Mr Trudeau said brownface was “a significant thing that is very hurtful” to “communities and people who live with intersectionalities and face discrimination”.

Mustafa Farooq, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said: “Seeing the prime minister in brownface/blackface is deeply saddening. The wearing of blackface/brownface is reprehensible, and hearkens back to a history of racism and an Orientalist mythology which is unacceptable.”

The council added that it recognised “people can change and evolve over two decades”. Later, the council issued a tweet thanking Mr Trudeau for apologising promptly.

What’s the political reaction 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.

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

“Any time we hear examples of brownface or blackface, it’s making a mockery of someone for what they live and what their lived experiences are,” Mr Singh told journalists on the campaign trail in Toronto.

“This is about every young person mocked for the colour of their skin, the child who had the turban ripped from their head,” he wrote online.

The image was also criticised in a tweet by Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

Justin Trudeau: New video of Canada’s PM in blackface

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