Politics

Trudeau poses for selfies, hugs supporters amid blackface scandal

PM goes to Canada's most ethnically diverse citt

(CNN) - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took his campaign to Canada's most ethnically diverse city on Friday, issuing yet another mea culpa for old blackface images, and posing for selfies and hugging supporters on the streets of Toronto.

Trudeau's pledge to ban military style rifles in Canada was overshadowed by renewed questions about him appearing in blackface in three separate incidents and the possible disclosure of more embarrassing images.

Asked about reports that more offensive photos would surface, Trudeau told reporters Friday, "I have nothing to confirm on that."

The prime minister said he was "wary about being definitive" on the existence of additional images because he had failed to remember the ones that had already come out. As he has done for days, Trudeau called himself an ally in the fight for social justice and highlighted his administration's efforts to fight racism and intolerance.

Before appearing with an ethically mix group of supporters for the gun control announcement, Trudeau stumped along a commercial stretch of Toronto. He displayed his rock star popularity as he tried to appear contrite about the scandal. He exchanged hugs and handshakes and posed for numerous pictures less than five weeks before the October 21 election.

"I'm not angry with you," one woman told him, according to video from CNN partner CTV News.

"I'm plenty angry," he insisted.

She said people tell her she did terrible things 20 years ago.

"I hurt a lot of good people," he said.

"I forgive you," she told him, putting her hand on his shoulder.

There was a tight embrace before she told Trudeau, "I love you." Then they posed for a photo.

"You're my hero," another woman told him moments later.

A man knelt by a stroller, trying to capture a photo of the sitting toddler with the politician greeting people in the background.

"Look, it's the prime minister," the man told the child before Trudeau walked over to them. "He's a good, good guy."

"I'm really hoping you win," another man told Trudeau. "We need you to win."

At one point, Trudeau posed for a photo with a black man. They then shook hands as Trudeau laid his other hand over his heart.

At the gun control event later, Trudeau repeated his apology and declined to say definitively whether there were more instances of him wearing dark makeup.

Asked about President Donald Trump saying he was "surprised" by the blackface photos, Trudeau said: "My focus is on Canadians who face discrimination every day ... who are racialized, who live with intolerance and marginalization is part of their daily experience. I hurt people who in many cases considered me to be an ally, who are deeply hurt by the terrible choices I made many years ago."

 

Disclosures anger politicians across the political spectrum

 

On Thursday, Trudeau said he did not remember each offensive image because his privilege gave him a blind spot on the issue.

The prime minister first apologized on Wednesday after Time posted a photo of him wearing brownface when he was a school teacher in 2001.

In his apology, Trudeau admitted he had put on dark makeup when he was in high school as part of a talent show in which he sang the traditional Jamaican folk song "Day-O." Late Wednesday, CTV News obtained that second photo from a source, who says it is a picture of Trudeau in a yearbook at Brebeuf College.

Global News reporter Mercedes Stephenson on Thursday obtained video of Trudeau in blackface from a Conservative Party of Canada source. The source told her the video was shot in the early 1990s, specifically sometime around 1993-1994.

Stephenson spoke to the person who shot the actual video. The person declined to comment but did not deny that the video shows Trudeau.

The Liberal Party spokesman confirmed to CTV that the video shows Trudeau from the early 1990s.

Trudeau said Friday that the video was taken at a costume party at a whitewater rafting company where he worked in the early 1990s.

The incidents angered politicians across the political spectrum who said that dressing up in brownface makes a mockery of people's experiences. The scandal could have political repercussions for Trudeau, who is running neck-and-neck with Conservative Andrew Scheer for next month's election.

 

'I shouldn't have done it'

 

Trudeau said the brownface photo revealed by Time was taken when he was a teacher in 2001 attending an end-of-the-year gala with an "Arabian Nights" theme. He said it was a racist photo, but he didn't consider it racist at the time.

"I shouldn't have done it. I should have known better, but I didn't," he told reporters. "And I'm really sorry."

The future prime minister attended the event with friends and colleagues and was dressed as a character from "Aladdin," said Zita Astravas, speaking on behalf of Trudeau's party, the Liberal Party of Canada. He was wearing a turban.

Scheer, speaking earlier this week in Sherbrooke, Quebec, said: "Like all Canadians, I was extremely shocked and disappointed when I learned of Justin Trudeau's actions this evening. Wearing brownface is an act of open mockery and racism. It was just as racist in 2001 as it is in 2019. What Canadians saw this evening was someone with a complete lack of judgment and integrity and someone who's not fit to govern this county."

The leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May, said she was "deeply shocked by the racism shown in the photograph."

Trudeau, 47, was sworn in as prime minister in November 2015. Trudeau, son of Pierre Trudeau, is the first child of a Canadian prime minister to become prime minister himself.

CNN's Rebekah Riess, Steve Almasy, Eric Levenson, Paula Newton, Maegan Vazquez, Betsy Klein contributed to this report.


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