I was even more right-wing in 2001 than I am now, and even then I knew wearing blackface was horribly racist. (I still remembered the very special “Gimme a Break!” episode about it from when I was a kid.) Our woke Prime Minister, on the other hand, had no idea.
To be fair, he was just a callow youth of (checks notes) 29 years old.
Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, wore brownface makeup to a party at the private school where he was teaching in the spring of 2001. TIME has obtained a photograph of the incident.
The photograph has not been previously reported. The picture was taken at an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala. It shows Trudeau, then the 29-year-old son of the late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, wearing a turban and robes with his face, neck and hands completely darkened. The photograph appears in the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private day school where Trudeau was a teacher.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday night, following TIME’s publication of the photo, Trudeau apologized: “I shouldn’t have done that. I should have known better and I didn’t. I’m really sorry.” When asked if he thought the photograph was racist, he said, “Yes it was. I didn’t consider it racist at the time, but now we know better.”
Trudeau said he wore “makeup” in high school to sing “Day-O,” a Jamaican folk song famously performed by African-American singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte. “I deeply regret that I did that,” he said.
The temptation to hold Trudeau to his own side’s extremely woke standards, and demand that his political career come to an end over this, is overwhelming. And yet, I think the better course of action for Andrew Scheer (who hasn’t weighed in yet, as of this posting) would be to take the high road.
Scheer didn’t step aside after his own 2005 comments attacking same-sex marriage came to light, and he should say Trudeau doesn’t deserve to lose his job over this. His policies and performance in office, sure, but not something stupid he did 18 years ago.
Conservatives should hold to the principle that people shouldn’t be judged, cancelled and denied a chance at redemption because of one mistake, and let the voters think about whether Liberals would do the same. Frankly, seeing Trudeau’s supporters make excuses for this is far more devastating than anything Scheer could say about it.
If everyone with skeletons in their closet was forced out of politics, we’d have no politicians left.
But there would be bad things about that, too.