Montreal, Sept 21 (AFP/APP):Racism or youthful indiscretion? Images published one week into Canada’s general election showing Justin Trudeau in blackface mark a low point in his political career, but it’s not clear if they’ve caused grievous harm to his re-election bid, experts say.
“Both in Canada and abroad, this affair has tarnished Justin Trudeau’s image that was carefully crafted by his Liberal Party as standing up for diversity and tolerance,” Stephanie Chouinard, a politics professor at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, told AFP.
“It’s a big blow.”
Three separate images of the Canadian leader in blackface makeup decades ago were published a month before Canadians go to the polls on October 21, with the Liberals in a tight race against the Conservatives led by Andrew Scheer.
A fervent advocate of multiculturalism, the 47-year-old son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau — who is considered the father of modern Canada — apologized publicly for the blunders from his teens and 20s.
“Darkening your face, regardless of the context or the circumstances, is always unacceptable because of the racist history of blackface,” Trudeau said. “I should have understood that then and I never should have done it.”
The blackface photographs and video footage were taken of Trudeau at a high school talent contest belting out a Harry Belafonte hit, at a party with fellow rafting guides in the early 1990s and at an “Arabian Nights”-themed event at a school where he taught 18 years ago.
They quickly went viral, particularly in the United States where blackface is considered openly racist in mainstream culture. President Donald Trump said Friday he was surprised by the images — and “more surprised when I saw the number of times.”
Blackface dates back to about 1830 when white performers caked their faces in greasepaint or shoe polish and drew on exaggerated lips in a caricature of blacks as somehow inferior, ignorant, lazy and even animalistic.
“The image of Trudeau as a leftist icon will be especially harmed in the United States,” McGill University politics professor Daniel Beland said.