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Some of what was said Friday about photo of Justin Trudeau in brownface

OTTAWA — Some of what was said Wednesday after a yearbook photo surfaced depicting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in brownface and clad in a turban and robes at an “Arabian Nights”-themed party in 2001:


“This is part of the reflections we all have to have on how we judge the mistakes that we’ve made in the past, how we take responsibility for them and mostly how we keep moving forward as a society recognizing that we do need to do more to fight anti-black racism, systemic discrimination, unconscious bias, all these things that are present that I’m certainly not immune from.” — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

“When I was in high school I dressed up at a talent show and sang Day-O, with makeup on.” — Trudeau, when asked whether there were any other similar incidents in his past.

“Who is the real Mr. Trudeau? Is it the one behind closed doors, the one when the cameras are turned off that no one sees? Is that the real Mr. Trudeau? Because more and more, it seems like it is.” — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, the first federal leader to respond to the controversy.

“I think it’s well known that communities and people who live with intersectionalities and face discrimination, the likes of which I have never personally had to experience, is a significant thing that is very hurtful. That’s why I’m so deeply disappointed in myself.” — Trudeau.

“The wearing of blackface/brownface is reprehensible, and hearkens back to a history of racism, slavery, and an Orientalist mythology that is unacceptable.” — National Council of Canadian Muslims executive director Mustafa Farooq, who later issued a statement thanking the prime minister for apologizing so quickly.

“I’m going to have a conversation with them tomorrow morning before they go to school about taking responsibility for mistakes we make, about living up every day to try and be a better person and recognizing that when you make mistakes, you have to take responsibility for it, you have to own up for it and you have to promise to do better.” — Trudeau, asked how he would broach the subject with his children.


“Seeing this image is going to be hard for a lot of people; it’s going to bring up a lot of pain, it’s going to bring up a lot of hurt. Please reach out to your loved ones, please reach out to people who are suffering in silence right now. Please let them know that they are loved, and they are celebrated for who they are.” — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, speaking directly to Canadians, during a news conference late Wednesday.

“If everyone who is going to be standing for office needs to demonstrate that they’ve been perfect every step of their lives, there’s going to be a shortage of people running for office. I think what is important is that, yes, people get challenged on mistakes they’ve made in the past, that they recognize those mistakes and they pledge to do better. That’s what we expect of people.” — Trudeau on the standards to which elected leaders are expected to live up.

“The fact of the matter is that I’ve always — and you’ll know this — been more enthusiastic about costumes than is sometimes appropriate. But these are the situations that I regret deeply.” — Trudeau, referring obliquely to the controversy surrounding his trip to India in 2018, which saw the prime minister and his family clad in elaborate local outfits.

“I am deeply shocked by the racism shown in the photograph of Justin Trudeau. He must apologize for the harm done and commit to learning and appreciating the requirement to model social justice leadership at all levels of government. In this matter he has failed.” — Green Leader Elizabeth May.

The Canadian Press