To the surprise of no one who has followed elections before, dirt on candidates began to surface just days into the official campaign.
In the case of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the compromising photos found were rather startling. The Liberal leader was forced into some major damage control when Time magazine released a 2001 photo of Trudeau, then working at a private school, dressed in ‘blackface’ and ‘brownface’. Since then, three photos and a video has surfaced of Trudeau wearing make-up used to alter his look to appear as though he were a different ethnicity for the purposes of theatrics.
The timing of the release of the photos isn’t surprising-though it’s fair to assume his opponents from the 2015 election are disappointed in their team for not unearthing them four years ago. They weren’t exactly hidden away either with one such even appearing in the school’s yearbook.
That’s not to excuse the content of the photos and videos. While people can mature quite a bit over an 18 year span, 2001 isn’t exactly an era where that kind of behaviour should have been tolerated either. Older generations can sometimes get a ‘pass’ for ignorant behaviour, this isn’t from a time when people didn’t know better or was it generally considered to be acceptable by a large group of people. As the son of a former prime minister, Trudeau should have been that much more aware of how actions of the past can be damaging down the road. Even if he wasn’t considering a career in office at the time, the optics of a member of the Trudeau family partaking in an activity that could be deemed offensive to so many people is extremely disappointing to say the least. Especially one that would go on to champion the rights of immigrants once he got into office.
With just over a month before the election, voters are left to wonder which is the real Trudeau. The one who has garnered a reputation world-wide as being an advocate of rights for people of all races, or as someone who simply says the right things in public while engaging in ignorant practices for the sake of a laugh.
The photos also put his opponents in a bit of a tough position as well. While they were gearing up to convince voters he’s accepted too many immigrants and helped them too much, they may have to alter that approach and try to persuade people into thinking he’s not an ally of different races after all.
For his part, Trudeau has publicly apologized for his 2001 actions after they were made public. His actions since he took office certainly offer a stark contrast of someone who would consider ‘blackface’ or ‘brownface’ as okay-from speaking out against a proposed ban of the niqab during the swearing in of citizenship to welcoming Syrian refugees to the safety of Canada’s shores.
Whether those actions are enough to atone for the mistakes made 18 years ago will be determined by voters on Oct. 21.
-Adam Prudhomme is the editor of the Napanee Beaver.