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Justin Trudeau says he’s sorry and asks Canadians to forgive him. Whether they do could decide this election.
The Liberal leader has acknowledged that wearing blackface or brownface is racist. He knows better now, he says, but didn’t in 2001, when he was a 29-year-old teacher at a private school in Vancouver and attended the school’s annual gala — the theme was Arabian Nights — with his face and hands covered in dark brown or black makeup.
Forgiveness is a personal quality and an individual decision. It’s yours to grant or to withhold. Trudeau has taken responsibility for his actions — there was at least one other incident, he said, in high school when he wore blackface. He has admitted his ignorance and recognized that his actions were hurtful and offensive.
Those are the right steps for a man asking others to forgive terrible mistakes in his past. If he is sincere and if there is evidence that he has evolved beyond the young man who somehow thought it was OK to misappropriate and thereby mock the ethnicity of others, Justin Trudeau will discover that many people will indeed forgive him.
Many of the candidates who were “outed” in the campaign’s first week are Conservatives, and most of the outing was the product of the Liberal opposition research machine.
But forgiving Trudeau his racist actions of two decades is a different matter than deciding whether he should be Canada’s prime minister now.
The first week of the federal election campaign was punctuated by the disclosure of past remarks and old social media posts that cast some candidates in an unfavourable light.
Some of those candidates had expressed views that are out of step with what many of us tell ourselves — or hope — are the dominant values of Canadian society in the 21st century.
Those are the values of social justice; values that embrace and celebrate diversity.
We want to live in a society where people are judged, as Dr. King said in 1963, not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.
Trudeau himself proclaims diversity as Canada’s great strength.
Many of the candidates who were “outed” in the campaign’s first week are Conservatives, and most of the outing was the product of the Liberal opposition research machine that was on a mission to portray Conservatives as intolerant or worse.
The hypocrisy of that political tactic is a tough pill to swallow today.
The Conservative label that Trudeau is “not as advertised” feels more valid today than it did before the images of the future prime minister in blackface first appeared Wednesday.
The sad but undeniable reality is that the Liberal leader does not meet the standard against which his own campaign asked Canadians to measure the fitness of candidates from other parties. Nor did the Liberals allow that the passage of time may have altered the views of those candidates they sought to shame.
Now Justin Trudeau needs Canadians to excuse his past behaviour, when neither he nor his party showed the slightest inclination to excuse the past mistakes of their political adversaries.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, a dark-skinned man of Indian descent who wears the Sikh turban, obviously knows better than most that black and brown Canadians are hurt by pictures — even 20 year-old pictures — of their prime minister “mocking the realities that so many Canadians live with.”
The emergence Thursday of what appears to be a third incident of Trudeau in blackface, that he did not disclose, raises doubts about whether he has fully faced up to his past.
If he is sincerely sorry for his mistakes and wants to make amends for them, complete honesty about the extent and nature of those mistakes is a minimal requirement. Anything less is just political damage control.
The electoral fallout of all of this is a significant — possibly lethal — setback for Liberal re-election prospects. The Conservative label that Trudeau is “not as advertised” feels more valid today than it did before the images of the future prime minister in blackface first appeared Wednesday.
Many progressive voters were troubled by some of Trudeau’s brand-bending behaviour exposed during the SNC-Lavalin affair, most notably his treatment of Jody Wilson-Raybould. But polls suggest that most of those voters seem to be back in the Liberal fold, if for no other reason than to stop the Conservatives.
But the SNC-Lavalin affair merely tarnished Trudeau’s woke progressive image. Photos of him in blackface leave his well-constructed brand in ruins.
There are just more than four weeks left before Canadians vote. That’s probably enough time for the Liberals to mount some kind of recovery. How they’d accomplish that is a complete mystery.
- Trudeau blackface controversy reverberates in Atlantic Canada
- RUSSELL WANGERSKY: Blackface/brownface — a defining moment for Trudeau?
- Political rivals react to racist Trudeau blackface images
- Trudeau apologizes for dressing up in brown face, election chances could suffer
- WARREN KINSELLA: Trudeau traded in the foulest racist stereotypes
- Canadian PM Trudeau vows to continue campaign amid blackface scandal
- CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD: Trudeau cuts himself the slack he has denied to others
- Photo of Justin Trudeau wearing 'blackface' at Vancouver party surfaces