Justin Trudeau has apologized after a 2001 photo of him wearing brownface surfaced during the second week of his campaign for re-election.
“I shouldn’t have done that,” he said while speaking to reporters Wednesday evening. “I should have known better but I didn’t and I’m really sorry.”
Time magazine published a yearbook photo from 2001 of the Liberal leader in dark makeup while wearing a turban.
Trudeau told reporters the photo was taken during an end-of-year dinner for the school he was teaching at. The event had an Arabian Nights theme and he appeared as the character Aladdin.
Trudeau said he now recognizes that wearing brownface was racist, though he didn’t think so at the time.
He said he was taking responsibility and vowed to continue campaigning.
“I’m going to be asking 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,” he said, adding that he was “pissed off” with himself.
Asked if there were any other incidents, Trudeau said he performed the song “Day-O” at a high school talent competition “with makeup on.”
The photo was provided to Time by Michael Adamson, who the magazine described as a Vancouver businessman with ties to the private school.
The school, West Point Grey Academy, said they are aware of the report but declined to comment.
The leaders of the main federal parties were quick to condemn the actions of Trudeau, who has cultivated an international reputation as a champion for diversity.
The NDP’s Jagmeet Singh, who reacted ahead of Trudeau’s apology, said the Liberal leader needs to answer for what happened.
WATCH: ‘I didn’t think it was racist at the time’: Trudeau on brownface photo
“Any time we hear examples of brownface or blackface … it’s making a mockery of someone for what they live and what their lived experiences are,” he told reporters.
He later said seeing the image is going to be hurtful for a lot of Canadians.
“Please reach out to your loved ones, please reach out to people who are suffering in silence right now. Please let them know that they are loved, and they are celebrated for who they are,” he said.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer chalked the incident up to Trudeau’s “lack of judgment and integrity.”
“Wearing brownface is an act of open mockery and racism,” he said. “It was just as racist in 2001 as it is in 2019.”
WATCH: Wednesday night Time Magazine published a photo from 2001 of Justin Trudeau in brownface. Travis Dhanraj has reaction from Trudeau and other candidates.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said she was “deeply shocked by the racism shown in this photograph of Justin Trudeau.”
“He must apologize for the harm done and commit to learning and appreciating the requirement to model social justice leadership at all levels of government,” she said in a statement. “In this matter he has failed.”
WATCH: While apologizing for a brownface photo that surfaced Wednesday, Justin Trudeau admitted that he once wore “make-up” as part of a high school talent show.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims also called on Trudeau to apologize, and later said they were pleased he did so.
“Seeing the prime minister in brownface/blackface is deeply saddening,” executive director Mustafa Farooq said in a statement.
“The wearing of blackface/brownface is reprehensible, and hearkens back to a history of racism, slavery, and an Orientalist mythology that is unacceptable. While we recognize that people can change and evolve over two decades, it is critical that the prime minister immediately and unequivocally apologizes for his wearing of brownface/blackface.”
WATCH: Reaction to Trudeau brownface photo. Kamil Karamali reports.
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