Prime MInister Justin Trudeau appears in this photo, released by Time Magazine, in dark makeup on his face, neck and hands at a 2001 “Arabian Nights”-themed party at Vancouver’s West Point Grey Academy, where he was a teacher. (Time)

Man who went to 2001 party doesn’t recall anyone being hurt by Trudeau in brownface

‘It’s so taken out of context. It’s applying today’s standards to yesterday’s actions’

A man who attended an “Arabian Nights” gala held by a private school in Vancouver says no one besides Justin Trudeau attended in skin-darkening makeup — but no one else was dressed as Aladdin, either.

Wayne Hamill went to the 2001 party because his kids went to West Point Grey Academy and he said the future Liberal leader’s costume was “great” and in keeping with the theme.

Other attendees, including other white people, were dressed as belly dancers or wearing saris or veils, Hamill said. He doesn’t recall anyone being offended by Trudeau’s costume or makeup.

“He didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. That’s what he did. He was a drama teacher,” said Hamill, who is white. “It’s a costume and it was in the context of the theme of the party.”

Trudeau has apologized after photographs from the event surfaced along with other images of him made up in brownface or blackface. He said he had a blind spot because of his privilege and he deeply regrets behaviour he now recognizes as racist.

Numerous Canadians of colour, including NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Indigenous federal candidates, have said Trudeau’s use of dark face paint is hurtful and insulting. Trudeau said Friday he would call Singh to personally apologize.

West Point Grey Academy released a statement Thursday saying its 2001 gala was organized by a culturally diverse group of parent volunteers and was intended to be celebratory and respectful. However, it said, it recognizes that cultural sensitivities have evolved over the past 18 years.

Sunny Khurana, a turban-wearing Sikh, also attended the party and was photographed with Trudeau.

He said Thursday he didn’t view the costume as racist and the school had no tolerance for discrimination.

Hamill, a real estate agent, said he’s not a Trudeau supporter but he believes the uproar is unfair. He said he never once, over the years, thought of coming forward with a yearbook photo to “expose” Trudeau for his costume at the event.

“Expose him for what? For being a good costume-dresser?” he said. “It’s so taken out of context. It’s applying today’s standards to yesterday’s actions. … At the time, it wasn’t as much of an issue to do that.”

He said Trudeau, who was 29 at the time, was a very expressive, enthusiastic and friendly teacher. Hamill also said the student population was diverse and included kids of South Asian, Middle Eastern, East Asian and First Nations descent.

Trudeau wrote in his 2014 memoir, “Common Ground,” that teaching at West Point Grey gave him new insights into the “privileged lives” of private-school students that he didn’t glean from his own advantaged upbringing.

“Whenever I discuss the problem of income inequality in our society, I think about the children and their families I met when teaching at that school. The parents I encountered at parent-teacher nights were successful, hard-working people, but their wealth gave some of them an excessive sense of entitlement,” he wrote.

“And many of the students had little exposure to or understanding of the larger society around them or the challenges faced by ordinary people.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

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

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Two injured hikers airlifted from North Vancouver Island Park

Campbell River and Comox Search and Rescue hoist team rescued the injured from Cape Scott Provincial Park

B.C. village’s local government sees four mayoral changes within three months

Resignations and appointments happened in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic

Indigenous B.C. tour operator keeps culture alive through virtual journeys in COVID-19 era

Campbell River based Homalco Tours is also in the process of setting up live cameras for bear viewing in Orford

Planning a beach fire? Bring a bucket

“Summer is here and as people gear up for beach and campfires,… Continue reading

Campbell River RCMP outline their approach to mental health calls

Recent events have spurred discussion of police interactions with people suffering from mental health concerns

13 new B.C. COVID-19 cases, Langley Lodge outbreak ends

Health care outbreaks down to four, 162 cases active

Mirror business directory and map

If you’d like to be added to the list, shoot us an email

MP asks Minister of Transport for review of safe crew levels on new ferries

The new ferries were approved to run with smaller crew sizes, raising safety concerns

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

B.C. teacher loses licence after sexual relationships with two recently-graduated students

The teacher won’t be allowed to apply for a teaching certificate until 2035

Most Read