Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologizes racist photos from 2001

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tears up as he apologizes for wearing blackface in the early 2000s. A reporter had just asked him what his father would think./RYAN JOB

By Becca Myskiw

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke at Old Market Square today addressing questions regarding racist photos of him that recently surfaced.

Trudeau was originally in town for a campaign announcement, but since photos of the leader wearing blackface in three instances made their way around the internet, his announcement focused largely on apologizing for the photos.

“What I did, the choices I made, hurt people,” said Trudeau. “[It] hurt people who thought I was an ally. I am an ally.”

Trudeau said in 2001, he didn’t realize it was wrong, but said since he’s become a politician he’s worked to get to know the people he represents and said he understands how wrong blackface is.

Winnipeg Liberal MPs, including Dan Vandal [Saint Vital], stand behind Trudeau as he speaks to Winnipeggers and reporters./ERIC ANTONIO

The prime minister said the photos were something he never brought up to his staff because he’s embarrassed by them.

“It was not something that represents the person I’ve become, the leader I try to be and it was really embarrassing.”

Trudeau went on to say he doesn’t remember other instances where he wore blackface.

He wouldn’t say there were more times because he’s “wary of being definitive” since he didn’t remember the recent photos that surfaced.

Some crowd members held up signs, some applauded, and one hurled obscenities toward the prime minister./ RYAN JOB

The blackface photos showed Trudeau dressed as Aladdin with his face painted dark at a costume party in 2001 at a West Point Grey Academy where he used to teach.

“[Blackface] minimizes and takes advantage of a reality that I have not had to live with of being discriminated against, of being marginalized, of being judged for the colour of my skin,” said Trudeau.

Trudeau acknowledged he comes from a place of privilege and said he didn’t understand how hurtful blackface is to the people who live with discrimination every day.