Trudeau at Black History Month in Ottawa

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with interviewer Merci Ien Photo copyright Black Ottawa Scene

Mon., Feb. 24, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was a special guest at the Government of Canada Black History Month celebrations at the National Arts Centre. With over 400 guests in attendance, the Prime Minister’s live interview with broadcaster Merci Ien marked the highlight of the evening’s celebrations. In what was sometimes an emotional encounter, he acknowledged his own past history of unconscious racism in his past life. The prime minister reflected on the “dumb choices” he made when he donned blackface and brownface multiple times in younger days.

Trudeau said all Canadians need to stop avoiding difficult questions and take a hard look at systemic discrimination against black Canadians.

“For me, taking that hard look certainly came to a head last fall during the election campaign and reflection on my own choices of many years ago and how that actually hurt people today that I had made really dumb choices that I didn’t understand the consequence for.”

Trudeau said it has prompted him to “be even more committed to standing with this community and fighting every day against the barriers and discrimination that are so invisible to so many people.”

Ien noted that many people thought Trudeau didn’t deserve a second chance after the photos were revealed, that he was an adult in at least one of the photos — dressed as Aladdin at a 2001 costume party at a private school where he was working as a 29-year-old teacher — and should have known better.

The evening also featured live performances from the Burundi Ishaka dance group; Academy Choir, which almost brought the house down with Oscar Peterson’s “Hymn to Freedom”; blues guitarist Gary Martin, and special blessings from First Nation Elder Chief Commanda.

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