‘Unacceptable’: What politicians have to say about Trudeau in blackface

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi: ‘When I saw that picture last night, certainly it was a sucker-punch’

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau addresses media in Winnipeg on Thursday, Sept.19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Images of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in blackface produced widespread reaction to the images themselves, and on the issue of race and racism in Canada.

Here is some of what was said by politicians, federal party leaders and candidates:

“I never talked about this. Quite frankly, I was embarrassed. It was not something that represents the person I’ve become, the leader I try to be and it was really embarrassing.” — Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau

“The fact is, I didn’t understand how hurtful this is to people who live with discrimination every single day. I have always acknowledged that I come from a place of privilege, but I now need to acknowledge that comes with a massive blind spot.” — Trudeau

“When we reflect on mistakes we’ve made in the past, that’s a question that we’re always going to be asking — why did we do that? Why did we think it was OK? Why did we think it was a good idea at the time? It wasn’t a good idea. It was a terrible idea. It was something that minimizes and takes advantage of a reality that I have not had to live with — of being discriminated against, of being marginalized, of being judged, for the colour of my skin, for my language, my background.” — Trudeau

“I have to recognize I let a lot of people down with that choice, and I stand here today to reflect on that and ask for forgiveness.” — Trudeau

READ MORE: Trudeau’s racist photos worry B.C. First Nation chief

“I believe that Canadians might have been able to accept his apology if he had been truthful and open, if he hadn’t based that apology on a lie, but he was specifically asked if there were other incidences where he engaged in this type of racist behaviour and he indicated that there was only one other incident and now we know that there was at least three.” — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer

“I first saw the video this morning when it was published this morning, and I can say there was an individual who was concerned by this and brought it to our campaign and our campaign did turn it over to a news outlet for verification. We left it in their hands.” — Scheer

“When you’ve got a prime minister that is mocking the lived realities of Canadians, it can inflame those tensions and give more oxygen to those who believe in discriminating (against) people based on the way they look. That’s why it’s deeply concerning. The impacts that this has on Canada and on the lives of Canadians can’t be underestimated. This is massive. And that’s why it’s so important for us to think about what people are going through right now and how they might be hurting.” — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh

“I thought he (Singh) showed genuine concern, and as someone who obviously has been victim of these types of things in a way that 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

“I can understand that some people were hurt with these pictures. But Mr. Trudeau said that he was sorry, so we have to talk about something else.” — Quebec Premier Francois Legault

“I told him, ‘Prime Minister, people are going to hurt, but I think the black community will be forgiving.’ The reason why they are going to be forgiving is because they have seen what he has done and they have appreciated what he has done.” — Greg Fergus, Liberal candidate, chair of Parliament’s black caucus

“There is no place in our country to take pictures or act in that way. As Indigenous people, as an Indigenous person myself who has faced racism and discrimination, it’s entirely unacceptable.” — Jody Wilson-Raybould, Independent candidate and former Liberal cabinet minister

READ MORE: Liberal candidate Stephen Fuhr’s B.C. campaign signs vandalized with blackface

“When I saw that picture last night, certainly it was a sucker-punch. I think for me and for a lot of people from minority communities it really makes you start to think, ‘When is this ever going to end?’ You work so hard, you go to school, you know you have to be just a little bit better than the next person because you have to prove just a little bit more, you succeed, you go on in your career — maybe you even become the mayor — and then you’re reminded in the worst possible way that people you respect, people you admire, people who are allies in the battle with you, still need a little bit of education.” — Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi

“I don’t know what to say. I’m sick about it. And I think about the impact for every child in this country, Indigenous or people of colour, and how it impacts them personally. It does harm. It’s racist.” — Green Leader Elizabeth May

“I’ll just make three brief comments of principles that I think we need to keep in mind in response to this. One is that when we see acts of racism, we should call them out as well as understanding their systemic roots and that there’s something deeper going on. The second is that I think we should expect the highest levels of integrity from our leaders and that means that nothing should be hidden from us, certainly not for a long period of time. And the third is that I think we need to hold our representatives to account. And in the case of party leaders, I think other representatives of that party should hold their leader to account.” — Jane Philpott, Independent candidate and former Liberal cabinet minister

“This is not about whether or not the prime minister is racist, it’s about the system in which we live in that is inherently racist and makes people think it is OK to mock racialized people’s lived experiences and appearances. People should be looking at this and talking about this; not just in respect to the prime minister, but critically looking at the racism, oppression and hate that us brown, black, and Indigenous people experience in our day-to-day lives.” — Samya Hasan, executive director, Council of Agencies Serving South Asians

READ MORE: Photos surface of Conservative candidate at B.C. event with people in blackface

“I was very disheartened and disappointed to see these images. These indefensible images bring back many painful memories of racism that I and other racialized Canadians have experienced throughout our lives. The prime minister has sincerely apologized and expressed his regret. The Justin Trudeau that I have come to know over the last four years is a champion of diversity and inclusion, and a strong ally of racialized communities.” — Amarjeet Sohi, Edmonton Liberal candidate and cabinet minister

The Canadian Press

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