The faces of Justin Trudeau

Having tough conversations during election time

Justin Trudeau's blackface scandal has exposed deep flaws in how Canadian political parties campaign for election.


Anyone who’s turned on a phone or the radio within the past week has probably heard about the photos of Prime Minister and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau wearing blackface and brownface.

In discussions on the news, there are two main questions people are being asked: One, do you think the photos are racist? And two, will this affect your vote?

Many of these conversations and interviews have immediately become obscured by discussions of political strategy, but it is important to remember that the photos are racist because the history of blackface is racist.

Though many white liberals will likely continue to support Trudeau and brush these “incidents” aside, the fact remains that the photos are deeply racist. Any dismissal of the images of Trudeau in blackface, even on the basis of “political strategy,” is also a dismissal of systemic discrimination experienced by non-white Canadians. If the photos affect someone’s vote, good, because they should.

The only politician who addressed this incident with genuine compassion was NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. Singh gave a heartfelt, emotional speech which ended with him saying “You are loved … don’t give up.”

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, on the other hand, used this incident to put Trudeau down, explaining that the scandal reveals why the prime minister is “someone who is not fit to govern this country.”

It seems impossible to have a real conversation about accountability and racism during an election. Listening to any given conversation or debate about this topic feels like sifting through what is real and what is a political strategy. As many have already pointed out, the release of these images so close to election time feels like a tactic.

Trudeau wore blackface and brownface on more than one occasion between 1980 and 2001. If this fact adds nothing to conversations about racism and accountability, it should at least serve to remind the public that Trudeau’s left-leaning persona is not entirely genuine.

In fact, during his four-year term, Trudeau has essentially been wearing more than one face the whole time. He puts on one face, as the Liberal leader, to talk to Canada. And then he puts on a different one behind closed doors, which he uses to do things like brush off unethical trips (Aga Khan) and mock Indigenous protesters.

Trudeau has proven himself to be a two-faced leader during his term. Now, the federal election is approaching, and he is trying to put all these mistakes behind him. But can Canadians trust him?

In short, no. Though in 2015, Trudeau promised to do better for Indigenous people, under his control, the Liberals bought the 4.5-billion-dollar Trans Mountain Pipeline that will negatively impact the lives of “140 First Nations bands and Indigenous groups.”

There are many other moments like this when the Liberal leader has acted inappropriately and gone against the promises he made in 2015.

Trudeau can apologize and take accountability for the racist photos, but that is not going to change him at the core. He has repeatedly shown himself to be deceitful and ingenuine, and it’s time to stop giving him the benefit of the doubt. It’s time for a change. On Oct. 21, that change can happen.

Charlie is a non-binary human living on Treaty 1 territory with their two bunnies. They are a big supporter of Jagmeet Singh and the NDP.

Published in Volume 74, Number 5 of The Uniter (October 3, 2019)

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