Will the Trudeau’s brownface photos affect voters?
By Ryleigh Stangness, Staff Writer
By now, we have all seen the papers with headlines splashed across the front page, ‘HYPOCRITE!” and seen the swift and merciless damnation from the media and public.
The controversial image of Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister in brownface makeup in a ‘genie costume’ has been posted on social media, TV screens and newspapers.
The photo, taken in 2001 and released Sept. 18, 2019 by TIME Magazine, came at a devastating time during the federal election, which will be held Oct. 21 — just over a month after the photo rst hit the media.
Trudeau’s brownface photos in the media
The picture depicts a then “29-year-old school teacher in Vancouver, wearing heavy brown makeup and a costume turban to an Arabian Nights-themed fundraising party,” according to an article written by John Geddes for MacLean’s.
The blow to Trudeau’s election platform was ruthlessly followed by photos of Trudeau with blackface makeup and an “afro-style wig” — according to a Global News article — for a high-school variety show.
And again in a third instance, a coup de grace, in a video released by Global News. Trudeau, in his early 20s, a white water rafting instructor, dressed in dramatically ragged jeans, a shirt with toucans on it and blackface full-body makeup, while sticking his tongue out at the camera.
The MacLean’s article predicts the event has only “jolted voters” but this may not exactly impact how they vote. The article cites the polling firm, EKOS Research, who conducted a phone survey that involved respondents entering digits to answer questions on their phone. MacLean’s writes, “About a quarter of respondents said the incident will impact how they vote, with the other three-quarters saying it wouldn’t inf luence their decision on Oct. 21.”
Another article by the National Post, says a survey poll, done by Abacus Data, found that visible minorities and younger voters were more influenced by the scandal.
The poll found that “among voters identifying as visible minorities, this bloc was nine points more likely than non-visible minorities and older people to be bothered by the scandal. For all voters younger than 30, this same nine-point difference applied.”
CBC writes, “‘Dressing in blackface or brownface is a hurtful, racist and offensive act that mocks, dehumanizes and belittles other cultures while feeding into some of the worst stereotypes of people of colour,’” community leaders and experts say, reacting to the actions of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.”
CBC also shares a quote from Tariq Amin-Khan, an associate professor at Ryerson University, who says, “At one level it shows that Justin Trudeau’s understanding about race and racism doesn’t seem to have deep roots.”
MRU thoughts on brownface photos
Duane Bratt, a political science professor and chair in the Department of Economics, Justice, and Policy Studies at MRU says, “Initial polling data is that the brownface scandal is widely known. There are large numbers of Canadians who said that they would not vote Liberal because of it.
“However, the vast majority of those voters were never going to vote Liberal in the first place. Therefore, so far, Trudeau has withstood the impact of the scandal. But in a tight race, it is still possible for it to trip him up. At the very least, it has significantly taken the Liberals off of their election messaging and damaged the Trudeau brand.”
MRU Student Dean Rawleigh says this incident will not be affecting his vote. “The brownface scandal probably won’t influence the way I’m voting, because I wasn’t going to vote for him either way — but it more solidi es the way I’m going to vote.”
Nenshi reacts to brownface
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi held a press conference and wrote a widely-shared opinion editorial for the Washington Post on the issue.
Nenshi says, “Let’s dispense with the obvious: Yes, it was a stupid thing to do, as much in 2001 as now,” he writes. “No, he’s not a racist.”
Furthermore, Nenshi says he himself has received criticism for being too easy on Trudeau, while others think he’s being too hard, yet for the most part, Nenshi’s insights have been received positively.
“What Justin Trudeau did was stupid. It was stupid in 2001 and it’s stupid now. At the same time, he’s been a powerful force for human rights during his political career. This is complex and confusing because people are complex and confusing. And like everyone, the prime minister deserves to be judged on the totality of his record. The voters will decide that next month,” Nenshi says.
Now, Nenshi is using his platform to draw attention to what he considers a bigger issue and wants to shift the public’s focus.
In an article for the Calgary Herald he says, “Which brings us to Bill-21 in Québec. We now have a law in this country, in 2019, that restricts what job you can have based on your faith.” Nenshi is concerned that federal political leaders are not talking about this or doing enough to uphold protection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
He also cites statistics, “Hate crimes are way up (47 per cent increase in Canada between 2016 and 2017).”
However wrong Trudeau’s past scandals are, the election is still expected to be a tight race, with voters yet to demonstrate whether or not this will have significant impact on the polls.