New Democrat Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh, Canada’s first non-white party leader and a serious contender in the October federal elections, said on Thursday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s blackface photos and videos were a “troubling” and “insulting” slap at Canadian minorities.
Singh lamented on Twitter that the Trudeau scandal would open old wounds for those who have experienced discrimination and prejudice:
Tonight is not about the Prime Minister.
It's about every young person mocked for the colour of their skin.
The child who had their turban ripped off their head.
And those reliving intense feelings of pain & hurt from past experiences of racism.
To you, I say you are loved.
— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) September 19, 2019
Singh was not relentless in his criticism of Trudeau. He indicated he was initially reluctant to comment on the blackface photos at all, but a friend convinced him to speak up:
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to come out and give a statement. But I got a message from a friend. And I’ve faced a lot of racism in my life and I can be honest with you, I fought back when I faced racism. I fought back with my fists. But there’s a lot of people who weren’t able to do that.
One of my friends told me how he wasn’t able to do that. And seeing this image today, the kids that see this image, and the people who see this image are going to think about all of the times in their life that they were made fun of, that they were hurt, that they were hit, that they were insulted, that they were made to feel less because of who they are.
When more photos and videos of Trudeau in blackface emerged, Singh said he might have trouble looking Trudeau in the eye.
“Imagine what that would feel like if you’ve gone through pain in your life, if you’ve been treated differently, if you’ve faced insults, if you’ve faced physical violence because of the way you look, if you’ve been treated differently by the police, if you’ve faced systemic barriers – and then to see the prime minister making light of that. How would someone feel living in this country? I can tell you that it hurts,” Singh said at an event in Ontario.
“I think there will be an impact on people’s decisions in this campaign in relation to what Mr. Trudeau has shown himself to be in public and now what we have seen in his private life,” he predicted.
Another of Trudeau’s rivals in the upcoming election, Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, said Singh’s response “showed genuine concern and as someone who has obviously been victim of these types of things in a way I never have.”
“I think he responded with a lot of class and dignity and obviously he was speaking on behalf of so many Canadians who have been victims of racist acts or mockery like that,” Scheer said of Singh.