Justin Trudeau Says He Can’t Remember How Many Times He’s Worn Blackface

Graeme Demianyk

Justin Trudeau has suggested he cannot remember how many times he has worn blackface after three incidents emerged.

The Canadian prime minister was on Thursday engulfed in scandal after a yearbook photo surfaced of the politician in brownface make-up at a 2001 Arabian Nights costume party. Two other similar incidents have come to light.

When a reporter asked twice exactly how many times he has worn blackface or brownface, he did not answer.

“I am wary of being definitive about this because the recent pictures that came out, I had not remembered,” he said, when another reporter asked him to delineate how many times.

“Frankly, I didn’t understand how hurtful this was to people who live with discrimination every day.”

With the election a month away, Trudeau has apologised and begged Canadians to forgive him.

Time magazine published the photo on Wednesday, saying it was taken from the yearbook from the West Point Grey Academy, a private school in British Columbia where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics.

It shows the then 29-year-old Trudeau in a turban and robe with dark make-up on his hands, face and neck.

Trudeau, who launched his re-election campaign a week ago, said he should have known better.

“I’m pissed off at myself. I’m disappointed in myself,” he told reporters 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 darkened his face.

He said he once did it while performing a version of Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat Song (Day-O) during a talent show.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the media in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“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.”

Global News also reported on a third instance, broadcasting a brief video of Trudeau in blackface while raising his hands in the air and sticking out his tongue.

A spokeswoman for Trudeau’s Liberal Party said the footage was from the early 1990s. The Canadian TV network said it was not clear where the tape was made.

It could all spell more trouble for Trudeau, who polls say is facing a serious challenge on October 21 from Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

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