PM Justin Trudeau, a fervent advocate of the multiculturalism integral to Canadian identity, apologises for wearing brownface makeup to a party at a school where he taught 18 years ago.

This photo taken from Time Magazine shows Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wearing a
This photo taken from Time Magazine shows Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wearing a "brownface" at a private school gala nearly two decades ago. (Time Magazine)

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a fervent advocate of the multiculturalism integral to Canadian identity, apologised on Wednesday for wearing brownface makeup to a party at a school where he taught 18 years ago.

Time magazine posted the photo, which it says was published in the yearbook from the West Point Grey Academy, a private school in British Columbia where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics. It depicts Trudeau wearing a turban and robe, with dark makeup on his hands, face, and neck.

Trudeau, who launched his reelection campaign exactly one week ago, said he should have known better.

"I'm pissed off at myself, I'm disappointed in myself," Trudeau told reporters travelling with him on his campaign plane.

"Now I recognise it was something racist to do," he said. "It was a dumb thing to do. I'm disappointed in myself."

Racially insensitive photos

The Canadian prime minister is but the latest politician to face scrutiny over racially insensitive photos and actions from their younger days. 

Earlier this year, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam faced intense pressure to resign after a racist picture surfaced from his 1984 medical school yearbook page. He denied being in the picture but admitted to wearing blackface as a young man while portraying Michael Jackson at a dance party in the 1980s.

Trudeau said the photo of him was taken at the school's annual dinner which had an "Arabian Nights" theme that year. Trudeau was dressed as a character from "Aladdin."

The prime minister said it was not the first time he has worn makeup before, saying he wore makeup while performing a version of the Harry Belafonte song, "Banana Boat Song (Day-O)" during a talent show.

"I should have known better then but I didn't, and I am deeply sorry for it," Trudeau said. "I'm going to ask Canadians to forgive me what I did. I shouldn't have done that. I take responsibility for it.  It was a dumb thing to do."

Trudeau said he's always been more enthusiastic about costumes than is "sometimes appropriate."

"These are the situations I regret deeply," he added.

Trouble in polls

The photo's publication could spell more trouble for Trudeau, who polls say is facing a serious challenge from Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

Trudeau has been admired by liberals around the world for his progressive policies in the Trump era, with Canada accepting more refugees than the United States. His Liberal government has also strongly advocated free trade.

But the 47-year-old son of late prime minister Pierre Trudeau was already vulnerable following one of the biggest scandals in Canadian political history, which arose when Trudeau's former attorney general said he improperly pressured her to halt the criminal prosecution of a company in Quebec. Trudeau has said he was standing up for jobs.

Trudeau said he would have a conversation with his kids in the morning about taking responsibility.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies