Trudeau said on Wednesday that he was “deeply sorry” after a photo emerged of him wearing dark face make-up for a party at a school where he was teaching back in 2001, Presstv Reported.
The black-and-white yearbook picture, obtained by the Time Magazine, depicts a 29-year-old Trudeau wearing a turban and skin-dark make-up on his face, neck, and hands for a costume party at a school in Vancouver.
“In 2001, when I was a teacher in Vancouver, I attended an end-of-year gala, the theme was Arabian nights. I dressed up in an Aladdin costume and put makeup on. I shouldn’t have done it. I should have known better, but I didn’t and I’m really sorry,” Trudeau said.
“I apologize profoundly,” the Canadian prime minister said. “I regret it deeply. I’m deeply sorry I did that, I should have known better. It was something I should not have done. I didn’t think it was racist at the time, but now I see, it was a racist thing to do.”
The Time Magazine published the photograph one week into a federal election campaign, where Trudeau’s Liberal Party is locked in a tough fight to maintain its parliamentary majority at the October 21 race.
Following the publication of the image, political rivals pounced on the opportunity to lash out at the prime minister and issued scathing condemnations.
Andrew Scheer, the head of the Conservative Party and Trudeau’s main opponent, said he was “extremely shocked and disappointed” and called Trudeau “unfit” to lead Canada.
The Green Party leader, Elizabeth May, said she was “deeply shocked by the racism shown in this photograph of Justin Trudeau,” and that he should apologize for it.
“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.”
Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the New Democratic Party, who is Sikh and wears a turban, also condemned the Canadian premier’s act.
Latest opinion polls show Trudeau and Scheer are deadlocked in the popular vote but the Liberals hold an edge when it comes to winning seats in parliament.
The Liberal Party leader, admired for his progressive policies, gained a record 148 seats in a landslide in 2015 elections.