Two-Faced: Trudeau’s Scandal Illuminates the Wrongdoing of Him and Others

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

I have always crushed hard on Justin Trudeau. 

He’s a good-looking, stereotypically pleasant Canadian guy. What’s not to like? 

Last week, I learned this (seemingly) rhetorical question in fact has an answer: his racism. Of course, the troubling photos that emerged of his black and brown face costumes sparked outrage amongst, well, everybody. 

I won’t go into why black and brown face are wrong and why they are so hurtful to the people and cultures that they mock—I assume you can draw your own conclusions.  Instead, I’m going to raise the questions: why did Trudeau get away with these photos for as long as he did? Why did no one mention them sooner? Why do I have the feeling that this issue would not have been as major even five years ago?

For starters, the photos were leaked by Time, which is not a Canadian publication but is rather U.S.-owned. This alone illuminates Canada’s lackluster relationship with racial issues (if Trudeau’s actions weren’t clear on that already, of course). The country should have accounted for its prime minister’s failings, but it didn’t. Trudeau’s coworkers at the school from which the yearbook photo was taken should have spoken up, but they didn’t. Anyone who saw the yearbook should’ve called it out, but they didn’t, until one person finally did in 2019—18 years after the photo was taken. Basically, Canada has some explaining to do.

And obviously, so does Trudeau. He knew that the pictures existed. So why didn’t he speak up for them before he was forced to? At this point, the apology sounds insincere. Trudeau said, “It was something that I didn’t think was racist at the time, but now I recognize it was something racist to do, and I am deeply sorry.” That just sounds like an admittance of pure ignorance, and he should’ve accounted for it a long time ago.



I mean, yeah, it was the early 2000s. White people really had no idea. If you have any doubts about this, just re-watch Friends for the millionth time: the show is unapologetically all white people, all the time. Not a lot of apologies were being made for racist behavior, because not a lot of people were being held accountable for it (this is pretty much because the people with the power to hold them accountable were also, you guessed it, white).



Canada’s Green Party leader Elizabeth May responded, “I am deeply shocked by the racism shown in the photograph of Justin Trudeau.” And, admittedly, so was I. But as I read more about the prime minister, I learned that this incident was something more of us should have seen coming, and maybe we should be held accountable, too. 

This isn’t Trudeau’s first takesies-backsies on his socially progressive stance. In the Time article that broke the story, artist Robert Davidson raised another incriminating fact about Trudeau’s past. 

“Davidson said in 2016 that the Trudeau government’s approval of a natural gas facility opposed by the Haida showed the prime minister was not genuinely sensitive to concerns of Canada’s indigenous population,” reported Time. This sounds like a classic ‘woke’ white-guy move. Trudeau may have been a poser this whole time, and many of us never saw past his (photogenic) façade to call him out on it. Or, rather, maybe some of us didn’t even think to.

But it’s 2019, and as a self-described champion of diversity and social progress, Trudeau should have waved his pictures in front of his audience and claimed responsibility for them. 

Had he acknowledged, without prompting, that his actions were wrong and part of the reason why his platform of inclusivity was so important, then maybe he would still be on my good side. Maybe I would still be on my good side if I had seen the signs sooner. This is an issue that involves more than just Trudeau, and those who haven’t been doing their homework on people in power should start to read up; if we all know when to hold them accountable, then they’ll have a much harder time getting away with actions like these.

As it stands, Trudeau is no longer the name I encircle with hearts in my notebook. I’ve moved on, and maybe you should, too.



Photo 1, 2, 3