‘I Deeply Regret It’: Justin Trudeau Apologizes For Wearing ‘Brownface’ At 2001 Party, Says There Were Other Occasions Too

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is at the center of a growing scandal as it is being reported he wore “brownface” at multiple parties or gatherings years ago.

The controversy started when a photo surfaced on Wednesday of Trudeau wearing dark-colored make-up covering his face and neck at a 2001 “Arabian Nights” party.

The Associated Press reports that during a presser that same night, Trudeau apologized and expressed that he was regretful for the photo. At the same time, he admitted that it was not the only time he adorned costumes that include “blackface” or “brownface”:

Trudeau, who launched his reelection campaign exactly one week ago, said he should have known better.

“I’m pissed off at myself, I’m disappointed in myself,” Trudeau told reporters traveling with him on his campaign plane.


The photo of Trudeau was taken at the school’s annual dinner, which had an “Arabian Nights” theme that year, Trudeau said, adding that he was dressed as a character from “Aladdin.” The prime minister said it was not the first time he has painted his face; once, he said, he performed a version of Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” during a talent show.

“I should have known better then but I didn’t, and I am deeply sorry for it,” Trudeau said. “I’m going to ask Canadians to forgive me for what I did. I shouldn’t have done that. I take responsibility for it. It was a dumb thing to do.”

He said he has always been more enthusiastic about costumes than is “sometimes appropriate.”

“These are the situations I regret deeply,” Trudeau added.

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Trudeau was 29 years old at the time of the photo, TIME reports.

And, “The photograph appears in the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private day school where Trudeau was a teacher.”

Here’s even more from TIME:

This is a critical moment for Trudeau, who began his re-election campaign on Sept. 11 under the cloud of a scandal over whether he pressured his then-attorney general to drop corruption charges against a large Canadian engineering firm. The Liberal Party leader has championed minority groups during his nearly four years as prime minister and made his embrace of Canada’s many cultures a major part of his leadership. At least seven of the 35 members of Trudeau’s cabinet are from ethnic minorities.