Singh says Trudeau brownface photo will open up 'lasting wounds' for racialized Canadians
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Thursday, September 19, 2019 8:33AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 19, 2019 8:34AM EDT
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says that a 2001 photo that has surfaced depicting Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in brownface is going to open up “lasting wounds” for many Canadians who have faced racism.
Singh made the comment during a one-on-one interview with CP24 on Thursday morning, less than 12 hours after the first photo was posted online by Time magazine.
The photo originally appeared in the yearbook for West Point Grey Academy, which was the Vancouver-area private school where Trudeau worked as a teacher. It depicts him at an “Arabian Nights” themed gala event wearing a turban and robe with his face, hands and neck covered in dark makeup.
Following the surfacing of the photo Trudeau apologized and told reporters that he was disappointed in himself, however Singh told CP24 on Thursday that the mea culpa may not offer much solace to racialized Canadians.
“I know that there are people who are really feeling the pain. Like, it is hurtful,” Singh said. “A lot of us are proud of Canada, we are proud of this being a place where we are welcome for who they are and I know a lot of people are now questioning that and they might want to give up on that beautiful dream we have here in Canada and I want them not to give up on that dream. I know people may also be giving up on themselves a bit and saying maybe I am not worried, maybe I am not valued. If the Prime Minister can make fun of me maybe there is some merit to that and I want to reject that. You have value, you have worth for who you are and I want folks to know that and believe that.”
Singh said that when he was growing up he regularly physically “fought back” against racism but he said that some Canadians couldn’t fight back and are left with real wounds.
He said that today will undoubtedly be difficult for those people.
“I really want to focus in on what it means to people. People are going to wake up today who didn’t see the image last night and think about all the things they went through,” he said. “My experience with racism was very different. I fought back a lot. But I was really touched last night by a friend who reached out and said that lot of people couldn’t fight back. A lot of people couldn’t handle that racism on their own and they were hurt physical they were hurt mentally.”
Trudeau has said that while he didn’t consider his decision to don brownface racist at the time, “we now know better.”