Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau reacts as he makes a statement in regards to photo coming to light of himself from 2001 wearing ‘brownface’ during a scrum on his campaign plane in Halifax, N.S., on Wednesday, September 18, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau reacts as he makes a statement in regards to photo coming to light of himself from 2001 wearing ‘brownface’ during a scrum on his campaign plane in Halifax, N.S., on Wednesday, September 18, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

Blowback from the Trudeau in brownface debacle reaches Chilliwack

PM in questionable photos released in the middle of the federal election campaign had ripple effects

Reaction to photos showing PM Justin Trudeau in brownface and blackface costumes, released in the middle of the federal election campaign, are having ripple effects in communities around the country —including Chilliwack.

Sto:lo Grand Chief Doug Kelly of Chilliwack said he understands why some people are uncomfortable even talking about the issue, since blackface reflected an era when those racist depictions were unquestioned.

“It was intended to belittle or disrespect people who were black or brown back in those times, and it has the same effect today,” Kelly said. “I have children, who because of their mixed ancestry, range from fair to dark, so these images hurt children. I don’t want my grandchildren to experience the racism that I did as a kid.”

The hullabaloo created since Time ran a yearbook photo from the Arabian Nights themed party at a school where Trudeau was teaching in 2001, has given Grand Chief Kelly pause to think about Trudeau’s big promises, made in 2015 and since, versus his actual performance.

The PM immediately attracted the attention of First Nation leaders when he was elected, Kelly said, including a platform that spoke to the aspirations of Indigenous people: nation-to-nation status, recognition and reconciliation. He seemed to be listening like no other party or leader in Canada had ever done, so he was on board.

Trudeau also appealed to women voters “claiming to be a feminist with a capital F,” but in the wake of the SNC Lavelin affair and what it did to Jody Wilson-Raybaud and Jane Philpott, that changed.

“It was not something a capital F feminist would do,” Kelly said. “I think about that guy that promised a lily-white government. He promised the most transparent and open government.”

Like many he’s been disappointed by the way things have transpired. But despite everything he’s not leaning toward putting his support behind PC leader Andrew Scheer or NDP leader Jagmeet Singh either.

“I’m a human being, and like many, I am both gifted and flawed, so when I see others with flaws exposed to the world like this, I get it.

“But I think it means that Trudeau is going to have to decide what type of leader he wants to be.”

Chilliwack school trustee Willow Reichelt also had some thoughts about the photos.

“I have been very disappointed (though not surprised) to see white people on Facebook and Twitter minimizing or downplaying the photos that have surfaced of Justin Trudeau in brownface and blackface,” Reichelt wrote on Facebook.

“It is not okay for a white person to paint their skin to imitate a person of colour. Ever. Full stop.”

She also called the attempt to dismiss it because it was so long ago, “a cop out.”

“Trudeau was 29 years old in the Aladdin photo. I was four years younger than him and also a teacher in 2001. I can tell you that the number of times I ever dressed in brownface or blackface was zero. I realize that our understanding of this concept has evolved over the years, but if you are white and your response to this incident is, ‘Oh for goodness sake! It’s just a costume’ you have some serious work to do on yourself.”

The only correct response, she noted, ‘which to Trudeau’s credit is what he did, is to say that it is wrong now, it was wrong then, and we must all do better going forward.’

Given his actions in consistent support of immigrants to Canada and his appointing of people of colour to cabinet, she does not actually believe the PM is a “virulent racist.”

“I think this incident is more indicative of Mr. Trudeau’s privilege in general.”

She hopes that he has grown as a person.

“I hope that he does some work to undo the damage that these photos have done.”


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Abbotsford’s Chase Claypool celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown on Sunday. (Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers)
Abbotsford’s Chase Claypool scores 10th touchdown

First wide receiver since 1960 to record 10 touchdowns in 10 games, Steelers still unbeaten

Former BC Lion Angus Reid was the keynote speaker at the 10th annual National Philanthropy Day lunch in Abbotsford on Nov. 16.
Three awards presented at National Philanthropy Day lunch

Event in Abbotsford honours those who have made a difference

web
Two Mission dental offices among only 5 in B.C. to purchase expensive new air-filtration invention

‘My patients can’t wear masks … There’s no other way around it,’ Dr. Stephen Chow said

Black Press file photo.
COVID-19 exposures recorded at 5 more Abbotsford schools

4 public schools and 1 private school had exposures from Nov. 9 to Nov. 12

An employee at a Chilliwack McDonald’s location tested positive for COVID on Nov. 21 (File photo by The Associated Press)
Employee tests positive for COVID-19 at McDonald’s restaurant in Chilliwack

One case was detected at the Vedder Road location, which briefly closed its doors

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, November 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-19: What do rising positivity rates mean for B.C.? It’s not entirely clear

Coronavirus cases are on the rise but the province has not unveiled clear thresholds for further measures

A rider carves a path on Yanks Peak Saturday, Nov. 21. Two men from Prince George went missing on the mountain the next day. One of them, Colin Jalbert, made it back after digging out his sled from four feet under the snow. The other, Mike Harbak, is still missing. Local search and rescue teams went out looking Monday, Nov. 23. (Sam Fait Photo)
‘I could still be the one out there’: Snowmobiler rescued, 1 missing on northern B.C. mountain

As Quesnel search and rescue teams search for the remaining rider, Colin Jalbert is resting at home

More than 70 anglers participated in the bar-fishing demonstration fishery on Sept. 9, 2020 on the Fraser River near Chilliwack. DFO officers ticketed six people and seized four rods. A court date is set for Dec. 1, 2020. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Anglers ticketed in Fraser River demonstration fishery heading to court

Sportfishing groups started a GoFundMe with almost $20K so far for legal defence of six anglers

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Care home staff are diligent about wearing personal protective equipment when they are in contact with residents, but less so when they interact with other staff members, B.C. Seniors Advocate says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
More COVID-19 testing needed for senior home staff, B.C.’s advocate says

Employees mingling spotted as virus conductor in many workplaces

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Most Read