Local Liberal candidate Kim Huffman says she supports Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apology for donning blackface makeup when he was younger.
“I thought it was sincere and he clearly owned up to making a mistake 20 years ago,” Huffman said Thursday.
“This shows how things have changed. This photo showed up in a yearbook. Something like that would never make it into a yearbook today. This is definitely a teachable moment.”
Huffman is among the candidates in Haldimand-Norfolk challenging Conservative Diane Finley, who is seeking a sixth term in the Oct. 21 election.
On Sept. 18, an 18-year-old photo of Trudeau, dressed in an Aladdin costume with his hands and face darkened, was published by Time magazine. He had dressed up for a theme gala at the private school where he taught.
Trudeau apologized for having indulged in what he acknowledged was a racist act and confessed to another: wearing makeup during a high-school talent show, while performing a version of Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song (Day-O).”
On Thursday morning, Global News published a video of a young Trudeau in blackface, showing him sticking out his tongue for the camera and raising his arms over his head, part of a montage of people apparently goofing around in a setting that’s hard to discern. A Liberal spokesperson said it was filmed in the early 1990s, when he was in his early 20s.
Trudeau addressed the matter again at a news conference Thursday afternoon in Winnipeg.
“What I did hurt them – hurt people who shouldn’t face intolerance and discrimination because of their skin colour,” he said. “This is something I regret. I should’ve understood that then and should never have done it.”
Norfolk County native Jason Lietaer is a strategist in the Conservative Party of Canada war room.
On Thursday, Lietaer said the blackface revelations are an embarrassment to the country.
“It’s a bombshell,” he told a Toronto radio station. “It’s the No. 1 trending news story worldwide right now.”
Finley condemned Trudeau’s behaviour but stopped short Thursday of calling for the prime minister’s resignation
“Unfortunately, he seems to have his own set of rules,” she said.
“I’m a great believer in democracy. I’m sure Canadians were shocked and disappointed when the story broke and when they saw how he reacted.
“I personally don’t believe he is fit to govern. But I also think Canadians have a right and a responsibility to make that decision.”
Bob Forbes, the People’s Party of Canada candidate in Haldimand-Norfolk, said it is ironic that a prime minister who has castigated the People’s Party as racist and intolerant should have a history of racial insensitivity himself.
“I was quite stunned,” Forbes said. “When I first heard, I thought to myself, ‘Is this really true?’ Then social media exploded with it.
“Justin Trudeau has to be one of the biggest hypocrites of all time based on what he’s said in the past compared to what’s going on right now. It’s like a bomb has exploded. I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for the Liberal campaign right now.”
The New Democratic Party of Canada has yet to nominate a candidate in Haldimand-Norfolk.
Brooke Martin, Green Party candidate in Haldimand-Norfolk, did not respond to an email invitation for comment by press time.
— With files from Postmedia News