In Brief

Justin Trudeau apologises after ‘brownface’ image emerges

Canadian PM admits that the photograph ‘was a racist thing to do’

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has apologised for wearing brownface make-up to a party in 2001, describing it as “a racist thing to do”.

Time magazine has published a photograph of Trudeau with brown make-up on his face, neck and hands and wearing a turban. It originally appeared in a school yearbook, while Trudeau, then 29, was working as a teacher.

He said: “I apologise profoundly. I regret it deeply. I’m deeply sorry I did that, I should have known better. It was something I should not have done. I didn’t think it was racist at the time, but now I see, it was a racist thing to do.”

The scandal could hardly be more poorly timed for the Canadian prime minister. The Guardian says it marks “a potential turning point in next month’s tightly contested general election”.

The PM’s main opponent, the Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, said he was “extremely shocked and disappointed” by the photograph, and said it showed that his rival was “unfit” to lead Canada.

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic party, said: “The people who see this image are going to think about all the times in their life that they were made fun of, that they were hurt... that they were insulted, that they were made to feel less, because of who they are.”

Green party leader, Elizabeth May, said she was also “deeply shocked” and demanded that Trudeau apologised.

As Trudeau did just that, he also revealed that when he was in high school he dressed up for a talent show and sang Day O, a traditional Jamaican folk song, “with make-up on”.

He said: “Obviously I regret that I did it. I’m pissed off at myself, obviously.”

What effect the incident has on the 21 October general election remains to be seen, but Trudeau can ill afford any problems in what is proving to be a tight race. Opinion polls suggest he and Scheer are deadlocked in the popular vote.

Time magazine says Trudeau “has championed minority groups” in office and “made his embrace of Canada’s many cultures a major part of his leadership”.

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