Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks to Nanaimo-Ladysmith Liberal candidate Michelle Corfield during this past spring’s byelection. (NICHOLAS PESCOD/NEWS BULLETIN file photo)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks to Nanaimo-Ladysmith Liberal candidate Michelle Corfield during this past spring’s byelection. (NICHOLAS PESCOD/NEWS BULLETIN file photo)

Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates ‘disappointed’ with prime minister over blackface

Situation a ‘nightmare’ for Trudeau and the Liberals, says VIU professor

Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates say they’re “disappointed” following a series of photos showing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wearing blackface and brownface makeup surfaced this week.

Time Magazine first reported and released a photo of Trudeau wearing brownface in 2001 at an event at West Point Grey Academy, a Vancouver private school where he worked as a teacher. Additional photos and even a video reportedly showing Trudeau wearing blackface in the early 1990s have since surfaced.

Trudeau has apologized for his actions, telling the media on Thursday in Winnipeg that he “didn’t understand how hurtful this is to people who live with discrimination” at the time. He also said “I come from a place of privilege but I now need to acknowledge that that comes with a massive blind spot.”

Liberal candidate Michelle Corfield said she was very disappointed to see the photos of Trudeau. She said the photographs from nearly 20 years ago are not reflective of the person he is today.

“Am I the same person that I was 20 years ago? No,” she said. “I am a product of my experience and I hope that the prime minister is a product of his experience and I hope he can learn from this and move forward.”

People have every reason to be upset at the prime minister, said Corfield, adding that she hopes Canadians can learn from this incident. She said she heard his apology and believes he is sincere.

“He’s asked for forgiveness and in my culture, when somebody does that you have to accept that,” she said.

RELATED: Trudeau asks Canada to look to current, not past, actions on race

Corfield said for her, the focus of her campaign remains on the issues.

“We’re talking about affordable housing options, we’re talking about prescriptions, we’re talking the environment, we’re talking about equality,” she said. “I’m not talking about this.”

Bob Chamberlin, the NDP candidate, said he was disgusted and disappointed when he saw the photos, adding that they send the “wrong message” to Canadians, especially First Nations and minorities.

“I think what we’ve seen is there are two sides to Justin Trudeau,” Chamberlin said. “One that is private and one that is public.”

Paul Manly, Green Party incumbent, told the News Bulletin he was really bothered and upset when he saw the images of Trudeau. He said there isn’t an excuse for that kind of behaviour, even if it was nearly 20 years ago.

“When I was 29 in 1993 I knew blackface was wrong,” he said.

Manly said while conversations around racism in Canada are extremely important, he thinks the photos of Trudeau will shift the focus of the election away from other important issues facing Canadians such as climate change.

“It changes the dialogue of what is important in this election. We need to all be coming together to work on the serious issues that we face…” he said. “It’s not to diminish what the prime minister has done, because it is extremely disappointing.”

RELATED: Politicians say Trudeau’s blackface ‘unacceptable’

Alexander Netherton, political studies professor at Vancouver Island University, said images being released publicly are Trudeau’s and the Liberals’ “worst nightmare” come to life.

“It really puts into question his leadership and credibility,” he said. “Potential voters will likely begin a process of re-evaluating Trudeau’s character.”

Netherton said the Liberals went into the fall having somewhat recovered from the SNC-Lavalin scandal but are now in damage-control mode.

“During his ‘sunny ways’ campaign, he tried to unleash this set of better expectations for all of Canadian society, the problem is that he is not living up to it and his own life doesn’t live up to it,” Netherton said. “None of these things look good for the Liberals.”

Trudeau and the Liberal party have tried to appeal to a younger and more diverse group of voters in recent years, said Netherton.

“About 17 per cent of our population is a visible minority and about 30 per cent of those have immigrated here in the past 10 years,” he said. “So, this not good for the Liberals.”

Netherton said while voters will be questioning Trudeau’s credibility, they will also have a tough time assessing Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer’s character and moral compass.

“Scheer, kind of like Mr. Harper before him, about this stuff, [he] is not saying what he really believes,” Netherton said.

Whether the photos ultimately cost Trudeau the election, Netherton said he isn’t sure, but believes the possibility of a minority Liberal or Conservative government is more likely now.

“The only thing Trudeau can do is move on,” he said.

Conservative candidate John Hirst declined to comment and People’s Party of Canada candidate Jennifer Clarke could not be reached for comment.







nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com 
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Uplands Park Elementary School. (News Bulletin file)
COVID-19 cases reported at Uplands Park, McGirr, Dover Bay schools

Contact tracing completed by Island Health, says Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools

Team Canada supporters watch a men’s hockey game on a TV screen at Diana Krall Plaza in February 2010. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Hopefully B.C. hosts Olympics again someday

Letter writer reminisces about 2010 Winter Games and the spirit they brought to the city

The Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce has asked Nanaimo city council to consider a commercial property tax freeze to help offset negative financial impacts of COVID-19. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo council asks for report on potential one-year commercial property tax freeze

Report based on chamber of commerce proposal to ease COVID-19 stress on business community

Literacy Central Vancouver Island’s IPALS program – parents as literacy supporters in immigrant communities – recently secured another five years of funding from senior levels of government. (Photo submitted)
Literacy program working for immigrant families in Nanaimo

Literacy Central Vancouver Island’s IPALS program sees funding extended another five years

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is preparing a rapid response team proposal for submission to the B.C. Ministry of Education. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district chosen to field COVID-19 rapid response team

Team to consist of SD68 and Island Health staff, according to B.C. Ministry of Education

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

“Our biggest challenge has been the amount of vaccine,” said FNHA acting chief medical officer Dr. Shannon McDonald. (First Nations Health Authority Facebook photo)
All First Nations on reserve to be vaccinated by end of March: First Nations Health Authority

Vaccinations continuing for B.C. First Nations amid shortages

(Delta Police Department photo)
B.C. youth calls 911 after accruing $7K in online gaming charges

‘Police spoke with the student about appropriate times to call 911’

Site C will go ahead, one year later and $5.3 billion more, the NDP announced Feb 26. (BC Hydro image)
B.C. NDP announces Site C will go ahead with new $16B budget

Reviews recommend more oversight, beefed up foundation stability work

Shannon Davis, manager at Sidney’s Star Cinema, holds up the largest available bag of popcorn available for sale at the theatre. It also also sells four smaller sizes in generating revenue following its closure last fall because of COVID-19. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Vancouver Island theatre can’t give you movies, but it can serve popcorn

Sidney’s Star Cinema using popcorn sales to prop up COVID-plagued bottom line

The BC Prosecution Service announced last year that it was appointing lawyer Marilyn Sandford as a special prosecutor to review the case, following media inquiries about disclosure issues linked to a pathologist involved in the matter. (Black Press Media files)
Possible miscarriage of justice in B.C. woman’s conviction in toddler drowning: prosecutor

Tammy Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty in 2013 to the lesser charge

A kid in elementary school wearing a face mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Metro Creative)
Union asks why an elementary school mask rule wouldn’t work in B.C. if it does elsewhere

B.C. education minister announced expansion of mask-wearing rules in middle, high school but not elementary students

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Most Read