Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photos of him wearing blackface and brownface surfaced on the Internet earlier this year. 2017 CANADA SUMMER GAMES/FLICKR VIA CC BY SA 2.0

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was known as a supporter of immigrants, a human rights activist and a poised figure against racism until photos of him wearing blackface and brownface surfaced on the Internet. 

“Blackface” references the application of black makeup by non-black people to their face to match their complexion to that of a black person’s. “Brownface” is a variation of blackface, except the appearance is meant to portray a brown or tan-skinned individual. As both of these looks are obviously extremely offensive, some have accused Trudeau of being a racist. And although others say that while this is an act of racism, it does not necessarily make Trudeau racist. But I question if this scandal undermines everything Trudeau claims to stand for. Personally, I do not think Justin Trudeau is a racist based on what he has campaigned for over the years, but I do think that this was an instance of being misinformed about racist actions. This is a perfect example of how everyone needs to be educated on racism and on what constitutes a racist action.

Trudeau put immigration policies and laws regarding indigenous people in the forefront of his time in office multiple times. Since Trudeau entered office in 2015, Canada went from welcoming 250,000 immigrants in 2015 to increasing that number to 300,000. Now, Canada admits 1% of its total population per year is immigrants. Trudeau even stated that immigrants are a huge reason why Canada has an advantage over the United States. In addition to these policies, the government has been responding to issues faced by indigenous people. Since 2015, 87 long-term drinking advisories in indigenous communities have been lifted. The Canadian government has also supported Inuit-led approaches to eliminating tuberculosis across Inuit territories by 2030. But how can Canadians trust that Trudeau had truly good intentions when he committed racist acts less than two decades ago? Canada is an extremely diverse country with over 250 ethnic origins represented. It is going to be an extremely strenuous time for Trudeau to win back Canada’s trust.

Trudeau’s actions are also causing some possibly unforeseen consequences as well. While Trudeau has said that Canada is aiding indigenous people in various ways, the country has been less than perfect in their handling of this important issue. In 2016, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that Canada has been discriminating against First Nations children who live on reserves by not providing the same services available to children in other parts of Canada. Trudeau also approved a $5.5 billion pipeline expansion earlier this year that has been strongly opposed by indigenous groups. Trudeau is claiming that the revenue made from the pipeline will come in handy in the future for supporting green projects, but he is still harming indigenous people since the pipe would go through several of their communities. For a prime minister who prides himself on supporting indigenous people, this is hypocritical. 


From disenfranchising indigenous communities to wearing blackface, Trudeau has committed acts of racism. This is arguably the worst time for Trudeau to have his image as a political figure questioned by the Canadian people. With the election coming up on Oct. 21, a month after the scandal, his positive work for various ethnicities is being pushed aside to focus instead on what he has done to negatively affect minorities. Only the election results will tell if he is able to bounce back.


Anya Marquardt (she/her) is a senior English Teacher Preparation major with a minor in Journalism. Anya is the assistant Opinions editor and has written for the Statesman since 2019. She is a member of the English Honors Program and an RA in Lauterbur Hall, as well as a Student Enrollment Leader.



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