Trudeau answered for blackface; will voters answer for Trudeau?

Jax White, Contributing Writer

Ever since his first ministerial election in 2015, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has served as the embodiment of youth liberalism in politics. His careful endorsement of the pro-choice movement, acceptance of immigrants, backing of the feminist movement and advocacy for Canadian legalization of cannabis have defined his administration as the vanguard of social progressivism; he was even selected as the Liberal Party’s critic for youth and multiculturalism in 2009, six years before his election as prime minister. But this persona was thrown into turmoil last week after a photograph was obtained by TIME Magazine of Trudeau in brownface at a 2001 party.

Since then things have gotten worse for Trudeau; a second photograph released on Sept. 18 shows Trudeau posing in blackface while singing the Jamaican folk song “Day-O” during a high school talent show, and the Toronto-based Global News released yet another video that same day featuring a third instance of blackface. Trudeau has issued multiple apologies since then, admitting that “I hurt people who in many cases consider me an ally . . . I let a lot of people down.” Many members of Canadian parliament appear convinced by his contrition, with a large number of representatives still supporting him as the Liberal candidate. Colleagues have been quoted as saying that, while this behavior is disappointing, it does not reflect the Trudeau of 2019. Mitzie Hunter, a Liberal Party candidate from Ontario, had the following to say: “What Justin Trudeau did was wrong. He has apologized. I know it is not representative of the man he is. This is a teachable moment for all of us. I accept his apology and I hope Canadians do too.”

Trudeau’s historical posturing as a champion of social justice, inclusivity and diversity, which won him contentious campaigns in 2013 and 2015, will nevertheless fall victim to this scandal. In an attempt to save face, Trudeau told reporters that voters should make their decision this election based on what candidates do with their time in office and “on a case-by-case basis.”

But other contenders in the Canadian government, especially the opposition, see things differently. Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer, Trudeau’s main competition in the upcoming election, stated that the photographs demonstrate “someone with a complete lack of judgment and integrity, and someone who is not fit to govern this country.” Scheer has been on the attack since the images emerged last week, attempting to pull as many voters away from his competition as possible.

It may be working. A late August poll finds Trudeau at a low approval rating of 43 percent, lower than many polls find U.S. President Donald Trump, who personally noted his “surprise” at hearing about the Trudeau scandal. Since the Canadian government has taken no action to censure Trudeau, it is entirely up to voters to decide how sincere his apologies have been and if he is really fit to lead the Canadian government in the twenty-first century. Although this controversy may not completely knock Trudeau out of the race, one thing is for certain — Canadian voters will face a tough decision in next month’s election.

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