Trudeau‘ brown face’ apol­ogy sin­cere, Ca­log heros says

The Prince George Citizen - - Front Page - Mark NIELSEN Cit­i­zen staff

Cari­boo-Prince Ge­orge Lib­eral can­di­date Tracy Calogheros says she be­lieves party leader Justin Trudeau is gen­uinely sorry for wear­ing brown­face while clad in a tur­ban in 2001.

“Lis­ten­ing to the prime min­is­ter’s apol­ogy last night, I re­ally be­lieve he’s gen­uine, I re­ally be­lieve he’s sin­cere,” Calogheros said Thurs­day.

“I thought a lot about it be­cause quite frankly the best lessons I’ve ever learned are from the mis­takes I’ve made.

“And I think when you look at our prime min­is­ter’s track record since he’s been in pub­lic life, ev­ery­thing he’s done has been to fight racism and big­otry and help­ing new Cana­di­ans from all over the world.”

On Wed­nes­day, Time mag­a­zine pub­lished when an 18-year-old photo of Trudeau, dressed in an Aladdin cos­tume with his hands and face dark­ened. He had dressed up for a theme gala at the pri­vate school where he taught.

He pro­fusely apol­o­gized for hav­ing in­dulged in what he ac­knowl­edged was a racist act of wear­ing brown­face, and con­fessed to an­other: wear­ing makeup dur­ing a high-school tal­ent show, while per­form­ing a ver­sion of Harry Be­la­fonte’s “Ba­nana Boat Song (Day-O).”

Then Thurs­day morn­ing, Global News pub­lished a video of a young Trudeau in black­face, show­ing him stick­ing out his tongue for the cam­era and rais­ing his arms over his head, part of a mon­tage of peo­ple ap­par­ently goof­ing around in a set­ting that’s hard to dis­cern.

A Lib­eral spokesper­son con­firmed its au­then­tic­ity and said it was filmed in the early 1990s, when he was in his early 20s.

Con­ser­va­tive leader An­drew Scheer sug­gested Thurs­day morn­ing his cam­paign had been aware of the video and de­cided to pass it along to a me­dia out­let.

Todd Do­herty, the Con­ser­va­tive can­di­date in Cari­boo-Prince Ge­orge, de­clined to com­ment on the mat­ter, say­ing it’s for oth­ers to com­ment on.

The rid­ing’s NDP can­di­date, Heather Saper­gia, limited her com­ment to say­ing that “for peo­ple who re­ally have brown skin and black skin, it’s painful be­cause it’s racism and it’s time for us to stand up for Cana­dian val­ues of diversity and in­clu­sion.”

Macken­zie Kerr, the Green Party can­di­date in Cari­boo-Prince Ge­orge, is­sued a blis­ter­ing state­ment: “If at 29 years old in 2001, you still didn’t un­der­stand that black­face is racist, then you’re a shmuck and you de­serve a stiff up­side slap of the head.

“Trudeau thinks he shouldn’t be held to the same stan­dards as reg­u­lar Cana­di­ans. This is not the first ex­am­ple. This ar­ro­gance com­ing out of the prime min­is­ter should not be tol­er­ated.”

Peo­ple’s Party of Canada can­di­date Jing Lan Yang said she hopes vot­ers will not fall for his charm and ac­cept his apol­ogy.

“We need a leader who is a per­son of in­tegrity and with dig­nity, and who will serve us, ev­ery Cana­dian, with truth­ful­ness and hon­our,” she added.

Calogheros also said vot­ers need to al­low po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to make mis­takes and learn from them, “oth­er­wise you de­mand per­fec­tion from peo­ple like that and re­ally all you’re do­ing is ask­ing them to lie.”

“So in this case, we’ve had a state­ment from him, he is con­trite and I think we re­ally need to fo­cus on is­sues in the in­di­vid­ual com­mu­ni­ties around the coun­try, you know. The po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sive­ness that we see in pub­lic dis­course to­day is tear­ing the world apart.”

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau’s priv­i­leged up­bring­ing cre­ated a “mas­sive blind spot” when it came un­der­stand­ing how dress­ing in black­face could be harm­ful, he said Thurs­day.

But the Lib­eral party leader, seek­ing re-elec­tion as prime min­is­ter and get­ting ex­actly the wrong kind of global at­ten­tion, asked Cana­di­ans to con­sider him a man changed by more than a decade of po­lit­i­cal ser­vice that’s taught him dark­en­ing his skin for fun or per­for­mances at least three times in his younger days was a ter­ri­ble mis­take.

“I didn’t un­der­stand how hurt­ful this is to peo­ple who live with dis­crim­i­na­tion ev­ery sin­gle day,” he said in Win­nipeg, a day af­ter the first ev­i­dence of what are now three in­stances of him in black- or brown­face was pub­lished around the world.

“I’ve al­ways ac­knowl­edged that I come from a place of priv­i­lege but I now need to ac­knowl­edge that comes with a mas­sive blind spot.”

Cana­di­ans need to un­der­stand the dam­age that blind spot can al­low, said the NDP’s Jag­meet Singh, who chal­lenged peo­ple to see the im­pli­ca­tions of Trudeau’s acts not through the eyes of the prime min­is­ter but through Singh’s.

It was a mo­ment full of po­lit­i­cal and per­sonal res­o­nance for the NDP leader, whose pres­ence in the cam­paign as a vis­i­blemi­nor­ity leader of a ma­jor party is a first for Canada.

“Imagine what that would feel like if you’ve gone through pain in your life, if you’ve been treated dif­fer­ently, if you’ve faced in­sults, if you’ve faced phys­i­cal vi­o­lence be­cause of the way you look, if you’ve been treated dif­fer­ently by the po­lice, if you’ve faced sys­temic bar­ri­ers,” Singh said at an event in Hamil­ton, Ont. “And then to see the prime min­is­ter mak­ing light of that. How would some­one feel liv­ing in this coun­try? I can tell you that it hurts.”

Even Singh’s ri­vals ac­knowl­edged Thurs­day that per­haps he stands alone among them as the per­son who can best ad­dress the sig­nif­i­cance of what Trudeau did – both as a teenager and as an adult, in­clud­ing as a teacher at a Van­cou­ver pri­vate school.

“I think I might take this op­por­tu­nity to just high­light the re­sponse from Jag­meet Singh,” Con­ser­va­tive leader An­drew Scheer said at an event in Saint-Hy­acinthe, Que.

“I thought he showed gen­uine con­cern and as some­one who has ob­vi­ously been vic­tim of these types of things in a way I never have. I think he re­sponded with a lot of class and dig­nity and ob­vi­ously he was speak­ing on be­half of so many Cana­di­ans who have been vic­tims of racist acts or mock­ery like that.”

But both Scheer and Singh ques­tioned whether the Trudeau of to­day is truly a changed man.

Singh pointed to an in­ci­dent in the spring when peo­ple ad­vo­cat­ing for bet­ter treat­ment for an On­tario First Na­tion strug­gling with mer­cury poi­son­ing protested at a pri­vate Lib­eral fundraiser. Dur­ing the event, a pro­tester was es­corted out of the room.

Trudeau thanked her for her do­na­tion, sug­gest­ing as a joke that she was a big party con­trib­u­tor.

“I think there will be an im­pact on peo­ple’s de­ci­sions in this cam­paign in re­la­tion to what Mr. Trudeau has shown him­self to be in pub­lic and now what we have seen in his pri­vate life,” Singh said.

“I think it shows that there is a dif­fer­ence there and a lot of le­git­i­mate ques­tions com­ing for­ward be­cause of that.”

The emer­gence, first Wed­nes­day night, and then Thurs­day morn­ing, of the pho­tos and a video of Trudeau in black- or brown­face brought the planned ac­tiv­i­ties of the cam­paign to a screech­ing halt for the Lib­er­als.

Trudeau spent Wed­nes­day night and the bulk of Thurs­day morn­ing on the phone with mem­bers of cab­i­net, can­di­dates and staff from vis­i­ble mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties, some of whom – cau­tiously – stood up in his de­fence on Thurs­day.

“I told him, ‘Prime Min­is­ter, peo­ple are go­ing to hurt, but I think the black com­mu­nity will be for­giv­ing,”’ said Lib­eral Greg Fer­gus, who is chair of the cross-party black cau­cus on Par­lia­ment Hill and is run­ning for re-elec­tion in a rid­ing in Que­bec but ad­ja­cent to Ottawa.

“The rea­son why they are go­ing to be for­giv­ing is be­cause they have seen what he has done and they have ap­pre­ci­ated what he has done,” he said.

Fer­gus said that in­cluded putting Vi­ola Des­mond, a black civil-rights ac­tivist from Nova Sco­tia, on the $10 bill, in­vest­ments to im­prove the lives of the black com­mu­nity, hav­ing a di­verse Lib­eral cau­cus and declar­ing that anti-black racism ex­ists in Canada.

Trudeau sug­gested that even ac­tions like those don’t ab­solve him, en­tirely.

“This has been per­son­ally a mo­ment where I’ve had to re­flect on the fact that want­ing to do good, want­ing to do bet­ter, sim­ply isn’t good enough,” he said.

“You need to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for mis­takes that hurt peo­ple who thought I was an ally. Hope­fully many of them still con­sider me an ally, even though this was a ter­ri­ble mis­take.”

The first im­age of Trudeau that sur­faced showed him dressed in an Aladdin cos­tume with his hands and face dark­ened and was pub­lished by Time mag­a­zine. He had dressed up for a theme gala at the pri­vate school where he taught.

When pro­fusely apol­o­giz­ing for that on Wed­nes­day night, he con­fessed to an­other: wear­ing makeup dur­ing a high-school tal­ent show, while per­form­ing a ver­sion of Harry Be­la­fonte’s Ba­nana Boat Song (Day-O).

Then Thurs­day morn­ing, Global News pub­lished a short video of a young Trudeau in black­face, show­ing him stick­ing out his tongue for the cam­era and rais­ing his arms over his head, part of a mon­tage of peo­ple ap­par­ently goof­ing around in a set­ting that’s hard to dis­cern. The Lib­er­als said that video was from the early 1990s, putting Trudeau in his early 20s.

Scheer sug­gested Thurs­day morn­ing his cam­paign had been aware of the video and de­cided to pass it along to a me­dia out­let.

CIT­I­ZEN PHOTO BY BRENT BRAATEN

Tracy Calogheros Lib­eral Can­di­date for Cari­boo-Prince Ge­orge takes ques­tions about Trudeau Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

DO­HERTY

KERR

CP PHOTO

Lib­eral Leader Justin Trudeau makes a state­ment in re­gards to photo com­ing to light of him­self from 2001 wear­ing “brown­face” dur­ing a scrum on his cam­paign plane in Hal­i­fax, N.S., on Wed­nes­day.

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