VANCOUVER — With just weeks away before the federal elections, the Canadian political landscape just got hit by a curveball, after this brownface photo of an Aladdin-costumed Justin Trudeau from 18 years ago, was recently revealed by TIME magazine.
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Trudeau acknowledged his mistake, apologized and begged for forgiveness.
“I have to recognize that I left a lot of people down with that choice and I stand here today to reflect on that and ask for forgiveness.”
Reactions from his political opponents and from social media were swift.
New Democrat party leader Jasmeet Singh called it “insulting,” while conservative party leader Andrew Scheer said it was disappointing.
Others downplayed the outrage.
Filipino-Canadian community leader Jojo Quimpo said that although he does not think Trudeau is racist.
He is not convinced either that his apology was sincere.
“I think my issue right now is about the moral compass, the moral authority of a leader to govern. Kasi kung siya mismo tinatago niya ang mga ganong bagay, and then he would face the camera and said one thing and then behind those well iba naman, I think that’s sad.”
Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, who is one of Trudeau’s senior ministers in the cabinet, believes that the prime minister really regrets what he did, and accepts full responsibility for his actions.
“Yes, this happened in the past. It was wrong. But I want people to know the Justin Trudeau that I know is the one that has always been a strong advocate, and like I said, I know him as a friend.”
Sajjan is hopeful that this incident will make Canadians think more about what real inclusion in society means.
“This is not just an issue for Justin Trudeau, this is a conversation we have to have, as all Canadians – what we are doing to promote an inclusive society. How do we make sure our children are able to succeed regardless of the color of their skin? Yes,we have come a long way but it also shows that we have a lot more work to do.”
“We live in a racially charged moment in our human history. So it is not surprising that political figures of all stripes will use it for whatever purpose might suit their needs.”
Meanwhile, Filipino-Canadian professor Leonora Angeles warns that there may be groups, trying to take advantage of this “racially charged” times to push their political goals forward.