Jagmeet Singh's Message To Canadians Hurt By Trudeau's Brownface Photo

Zi-Ann Lum

OTTAWA — Canada’s first non-white leader of a federal party didn’t have much to say about the prime minister after a photo of Justin Trudeau in brownface surfaced Wednesday, but he did have a powerful message for Canadians.

The 2001 yearbook photo, published by Time magazine, shows a 29-year-old Trudeau in costume, posing with three women at Vancouver’s West Point Grey Academy at an annual event. The prime minister was a teacher at the private school at the time.

New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh said he was undecided about making statement in response to the brownface photo, but changed his mind after receiving a message from a friend.

“I want to talk to all of the kids out there, all the folks who lived this and are now grown up and still feeling the pain of racism,” Singh said, referencing the racism he faced growing up.

“I want you to know that you might feel like giving up on Canada ... I want you to know that you have value, you have worth, and you are loved.”

Earlier, Trudeau apologized for the racist photo, calling it a mistake. He told reporters that he was dressed up as Aladdin, explaining the white outfit, dark vest, and jeweled and feathered turban. The theme was “Arabian nights.”

“I should have known better then, but I didn’t. And I did it. And I am deeply sorry for it.”

Singh’s full statement below:

When I responded earlier, I hadn’t seen the image itself. And seeing the image, it jarred me. 

And I wasn’t sure if I wanted to come out and give a statement. But I got a message from a friend. And I’ve faced a lot of racism in my life and I can be honest with you, I fought back when I faced racism. I...

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