"I'm sorry": Justin Trudeau apologizes for dressing in brownface in 2001

Sep 18 2019, 6:00 pm

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is apologizing after a photo of him in brownface at a Vancouver party in 2001 was published today as part of TIME Magazine exclusive.

According to TIME, the photo is from a high school yearbook, and was taken at West Point Grey Academy, the prestigious private school in Vancouver where Trudeau was a teacher at the time.

Speaking to reporters not long after the bombshell article was published, Trudeau was blunt in his response.

“I shouldn’t have done that, I should’ve known better, but I didn’t, and I’m really sorry,” he said. “Obviously, I regret that I did it.”

As for the nature of the photo, Trudeau said he “didn’t consider it a racist action at the time, but now we know better. I made a mistake when I was younger. I should have known better then, and I didn’t.”

TIME Magazine

Asked about the timing surrounding the surfacing of the photo, Trudeau said “it’s not about timing, it’s about doing something I shouldn’t have done.”

Trudeau said he has made “a number of calls to friends and colleagues tonight, and I will have many more calls to make.”

The party leader said he has worked all his life “to create opportunities for people, to fight against racism and intolerance, and I can stand here and say that I made a mistake when I was younger and I wish I hadn’t. I did it, and I’m deeply sorry.”

Asked if he thinks he should resign over the photo – or if he would have asked an opposition leader to step down in a case like this – Trudeau said he believes “there are people who have made mistakes in this life; then they make decisions on what they do or what they did, then on a case-by-case basis. I deeply regret that I did that, I should have known better, but I didn’t.”

Trudeau said he is “going to be asking Canadians for forgiveness for what I did. I shouldn’t have done that, I take responsibility for it, it was dumb thing to do, I’m disappointed in myself, I’m pissed off at myself for having done it, I wish I hadn’t done it but I did it. And I apologize for it.”

Asked if there were other instances like this in the past, Trudeau acknowledged he dressed up at a high school talent show, wearing makeup, and sang the Harry Belafonte song “Day-O“.

The event where the photo was taken was an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala, and Trudeau said he had dressed up as Aladdin. It was an adults-only gala.

TIME said it had obtained the photo back in July, but waited to release it until it was verified by Trudeau’s campaign.

The publication said that although Trudeau was not the only person in costume at the school’s annual gala, of the six pictures it saw “Trudeau appears to be the only one who darkened his skin.”

The fact of the matter, said Trudeau “is that I’ve always — and you’ll know this — been more enthusiastic about costumes than is sometimes appropriate.”