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Justin Trudeau apologizes for brownface and blackface photos

Trudeau under fire for brownface and blackface photos
Justin Trudeau under fire over brownface and blackface photos 01:45

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized Thursday afternoon about the controversy of him appearing in photos from years ago dressed in blackface and brownface. At least three photos have been released that show Trudeau wearing darkened makeup on his face.

 "This is something I deeply, deeply regret," Trudeau told reporters in Winnipeg. He said wearing blackface is "always unacceptable because of the racist history of blackface. I should've understood it then, and I should have never done it."

When asked if the public can expect more photos of him in blackface to emerge, Trudeau said he couldn't be sure. 

"I'm wary of being definitive about this, because the recent pictures that came out, I don't remember. I didn't understand how hurtful this is to people who live with this discrimination every day. I shared the moments that I recollected. I recognize that is absolutely something unacceptable to do," he added.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in Winnipeg on Sept. 19, 2019. CBS News

"I have dedicated my service to Canada to combat intolerance and racism whenever I can," he said, evoking how his administration has promoted greater understanding of unconscious bias and intersectionality. "I didn't see that from the layers of privilege I have. For that, I am deeply sorry and I apologize."   

The first picture, published by Time magazine, appears in a 2001 yearbook from a private school where Trudeau used to teach. He said the costume was from a party with an "Arabian Nights" theme. 

"People are still facing racism every day," he said. "Systemic discrimination still exists, in our schools, university, workplaces, and our communities. We must pledge ourselves to make sure we make it better." 

Trudeau has built his political reputation on the promotion of freedom and diversity in Canada. With Canada's federal election just over a month away, the fallout could cast a shadow over Trudeau's campaign. 

When asked if he'll step aside ahead of his re-election next month, Trudeau brushed off the question. 

"I will continue to do the work that is necessary to keep us moving forward in the right way," he answered to polite applause. "Canadians have an important choice to make on October 21. I trust Canadians to make the right choice." 

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