2001 Photo of Trudeau in Brownface Makeup Roils Canada Election

2001 Photo of Trudeau in Brownface Makeup Roils Canada Election


OTTAWA — The re-election campaign of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada was thrown into turmoil on Wednesday when a photograph surfaced of him wearing brownface makeup at a 2001 private school party.

The photograph had been taken when Mr. Trudeau, then a 29-year-old teacher, attended an “Arabian Nights” themed costume gala at the West Point Grey Academy in Vancouver, according to Time magazine, which published the image.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Trudeau’s re-election campaign confirmed that the photo was of him.

“He attended with friends and colleagues dressed as a character from Aladdin,” the spokeswoman, Zita Astravas, said.

The photograph appeared in the school’s 2000-2001 yearbook, The View, Time said, adding that it had obtained a copy of the yearbook from a Vancouver businessman, Michael Adamson, a member of the school community. The magazine reported that Mr. Adamson, who first saw the photograph in July, felt that it should be made public.

The news immediately injected new uncertainty into the political career of Mr. Trudeau, the Liberal Party leader who began his re-election campaign a week ago. He has sought to cast himself as a champion of Canada’s racial and ethnic minorities in his nearly four years as prime minister.

The image immediately drew comparisons to the scandal that enmeshed Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia this year when a photograph surfaced that had been published in a medical school yearbook 35 years earlier. Initially, Mr. Northam apologized for appearing in the yearbook photo, which shows a man in blackface makeup standing next to someone wearing a Klan robe and hood. But he later insisted that he was actually not either of the people in the picture.

Time’s story immediately became the dominant topic on Canadian news websites.

The CBC quoted Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the rival New Democratic Party, as saying Mr. Trudeau had made “a mockery of someone for what they live and what their lived experiences are.”

“I think he needs to answer for it,” Mr. Singh said. “I think he needs to answer the question why he did that and what does that say about what he thinks about people who, because of who they are, because of the color of their skin, face challenges and barriers and obstacles in their life.”



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