Trudeau looks to pivot from blackface controversy, asks to meet with NDP's Singh
OTTAWA – Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has asked for a meeting with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, as he continues to express his contrition to Canadians after photos and a video of him in blackface and brownface came to light in recent days.
Still facing questions about the controversy he put himself in, part of his push to turn the page has been to have conversations with people of colour, but Singh says he's not about to be part of any crisis communications strategy by the Liberals.
Late Thursday night Trudeau’s campaign team reached out to Singh's staff "expressing a desire to talk," Singh told reporters while making a pharmacare announcement in Essex, Ont.
Singh said that he is "open to having a private conversation," with Trudeau, and it’s expected that this conversation will take place later today, out of the spotlight of the federal campaign.
"I don't want that conversation that I have with Mr. Trudeau to be used as a tool in his exoneration, or to be used as a way for him to say 'I've had a conversation with a racialized leader, and now I’ve done my job.' That’s up to Canadians to answer whether they’re satisfied," said Singh.
"I don't want to be a part of in somehow helping him or the Liberal Party do their PR campaign to remedy this."
The NDP leader is the first federal party leader of colour running to be prime minister, and his response to the Trudeau visuals has received praise across the political spectrum, with even Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer saying "he responded with a lot of class and dignity."
Friday, Singh said the entire controversy shows that Trudeau doesn't understand what people go through.
"I spoke with young people who tell me that if the prime minister can mock their reality, can mock their struggles, then what's to stop other people from saying 'if the prime minister can make fun of people for what they're going through, why can't I?"
At an announcement in Toronto where he rolled out the long-expected promise for stronger gun control measures, Trudeau faced further questions about his blackface and brownface controversy.
Asked what he wants to say to Singh, Trudeau said he will be "apologizing to him personally as a racialized Canadian, as I have been apologizing to Canadians who have suffered discrimination and intolerance their entire lives in ways that some of us, like me, have never had to experience on a daily basis."
During a campaign stop in Saint John, N.B., Scheer said Trudeau continues to not live up to standards he has held others to.
"I think people are very concerned about the hypocrisy, the fact that there is one set of rules for Justin Trudeau and one set of rules for everyone else," Scheer said.
He was also asked if his team was aware of any other photos and Scheer said "I'm not aware that we are, no."
'A humbling few days'
During the announcement Trudeau was asked again about whether there were more instances of this or other offensive behaviour in his past that he has kept to himself. He said he couldn't confirm if more examples could emerge.
"I have been forthright about the incidents that I remember," Trudeau said.
Ahead of his sizeable policy announcement, Trudeau was mainstreeting in Toronto and appeared to get a positive reception, with people shaking his hand and asking for selfies.
"I'm not angry with you," said Nicole Edgar, one of the people he stopped to talk to. Trudeau responded, "I'm plenty angry… I hurt a lot of good people and I'm really sorry about that."
As he walked down the street with a few incumbent Liberal candidates Trudeau remarked: "It's been a humbling few days."
According to the latest Nanos Research figures, when eligible voters were asked to rank their preferences for prime minister, Trudeau remains the top pick with 29.3 per cent of respondents saying he's their preferred prime minister. The percentage of people who favoured Trudeau went up by 0.2 per cent, according to the tracking done between Sept. 17 and Sept. 19, through the apex of the controversy so far.
Meanwhile, 29.3 per cent of respondents said Scheer would be their preferred pick, down one per cent. The percentage of people who preferred Singh as prime minister rose to 9.4, while 8.5 per cent of people said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May would be their top choice for prime minister.
Trudeau doesn’t have any more official campaign events today.
On Thursday night his campaign elected to change what was supposed to be a rally with partisan supporters to a town hall, giving the arguably friendlier-than-average crowd the chance to ask him whatever they wanted.
Trudeau received plenty of positive comments and unrelated questions at the event, and there were just two questions about the blackface and brownface controversy.
One man seemed to try to land a joke about whether he could "round to the nearest five" how many times Trudeau had dressed up or painted his face in an offensive way, while an older man in the crowd then told Trudeau that he shouldn't apologize.
Trudeau responded to the first saying that he wouldn’t make light of the situation, and told the second man that "there was no excusing" what he did.
What has come out
On Wednesday night, TIME Magazine published a photo from the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private day school in Vancouver where Trudeau was a teacher at the time. The photo, the Liberal campaign confirmed, was from the school’s annual dinner that had an "Arabian Nights" theme. Trudeau was dressed as Aladdin and had dark makeup on his face, neck, and hands.
CTV News then confirmed a second photo of Trudeau from that dinner. It shows Trudeau in the same Aladdin costume, with his arms around two men in turbans.
In apologizing for the first photo, Trudeau also admitted that he "dressed up at a talent show and sang Day-O. With makeup on," while he was in high school, referring to a Jamaican folk song called "Banana Boat Song (Day-O)." A photo of this incident was printed in his Montreal school Brebeuf College's yearbook.
Then on Thursday morning, the Liberal campaign confirmed that there was also a video dated to the early 1990s showing Trudeau wearing blackface and waving his arms, which also appeared darkened.
On Friday, Trudeau said that this clip was part of a "costume day" for whitewater river rafting guides, a summer job he had in the early 1990s -- his guess was that it was between 1992 and 1994. He said that he did not remember this instance until it emerged.