The Liberal candidates in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent are expressing disappointment after photos and a video surfaced of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau wearing brownface or blackface makeup.
TIME Magazine published the photo from an 'Arabian Nights' themed party when Trudeau was 29 years old in 2001. Two separate instances emerged of Trudeau wearing brownface or blackface makeup after the news broke of the first instance on Wednesday night.
“Obviously I'm disappointed, I think everybody is,” Windsor West Liberal candidate Sandra Pupatello told CTV News. “Then you realize also that I was pleased to see how quickly he responded to that. He can't be afraid of being able to stand up and say, look, I made a big mistake and I am apologizing for it and he's been doing that ever since.”
Pupatello says she is really glad that his response was quick, honest and heartfelt.
“I sort of sat there and thought that every one of us have done some dumb thing growing up and I think the good news is that we do learn from that,” says Pupatello. “And what people thought 20 years ago was appropriate, is just not the case today. And when I'm talking to my supporters, people who are coming from racial communities, I ask them that outright and that's what they've told me.”
Chatham-Kent-Leamington Liberal candidate Katie Omstead issued a statement in response to the photos.
“I am disappointed by the pictures of Justin Trudeau that were published yesterday,” said Omstead. “I simply don’t care how old these images are. Being a teacher, my heart goes out to students everywhere who have been affected by racism, homophobia, and bullying.”
Omstead also acknowledged his apology.
“We’ve seen him apologize sincerely, and accept full responsibility,” said Omstead. “I know, as does he, how serious this is. We need to continue to have conversations about discrimination, and what we can do to teach our children, and those of us who lead, to respect the diversity of all Canadians. We all need to be better.”
Windsor-Tecumseh Liberal candidate Irek Kusmierczyk is glad Trudeau apologized for the images.
"(Trudeau) acknowledges what he did was wrong. It is wrong today, it was wrong 20 years ago, and he acknowledges that," says Kusmierczyk. "We have a long ways to go, and this is an opportunity for us to have a very important conversation, starting today."
The Liberal candidate in Essex, Audrey Festeryga, adds this creates an opportunity for all Canadians to look at ways to stop racism in this country.
"We need to look racism in the face and say it's not okay," says Festeryga. "I'm glad that's exactly what Justin Trudeau did. No excuses, no spin. Systemic rAcism needs to stop. it needs to stop now and it needs to be fought in every form."
The controversy jammed the phone lines at AM800's the Lynn Martin Show, as callers criticized and offered support to Trudeau over three hours.
University of Windsor political science professor Lydia Miljan says the images are a game changer, and they tarnish the Liberal brand.
The photo published by TIME appeared in the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private school in British Columbia where Trudeau was a teacher at the time.
Trudeau apologized on Wednesday and acknowledged that he was dressed as Aladdin.
"It was a dumb thing to do. I’m disappointed in myself. I’m pissed off at myself for having done it. I wish I hadn’t done it, but I did it and I apologize for it,” Trudeau said.
In another photo that emerged, Trudeau was dressed up in a high school talent show and the photo was printed in the Brebeuf College yearbook. The other instance stems from a video shot in the early 1990’s and obtained by Global News showing Trudeau in blackface.
With files from CTVNews.ca.