Recently released photos of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in brownface and blackface are causing an uproar across the country and, B.C.’s Skeena-Bulkley Valley is no exception.
Wet’suwet’en Chief Na’Moks, who also goes by the name John Ridsdale, was unequivocal that it sows fear within Indigenous communities.
“When you have an elected official who actually has photos of that subject matter made public, it affects everybody,” he said.
“It’s such a terrible thing where this country has two parties, either Liberal or Conservative, and you always have to take the best of the worst, I guess.
“That’s what we did when he got in last time, and now between him and that Scheer madness, I thought one was more racist than the other, but now it appears they seem to be neck and neck.”
The first photo, published on Wednesday by Time Magazine, shows Trudeau in 2001 in dark makeup, wearing a turban during an “Arabian Nights”-themed party at the Vancouver private school where he was a teacher.
Trudeau apologized that evening and acknowledged a second photo of him in brownface. On Thursday morning, a third racist photo of him, this time in blackface, emerged.
Skeena-Bulkley Valley Conservative candidate Claire Rattée said that’s not good enough.
“It’s shocking and pretty disgusting to see something like that coming from our prime minister,” she said. “It was wrong then, it’s wrong now, and I don’t think he’s given a reasonable apology on that at all. I don’t think that he actually understands the gravity of what he’s done.”
Dave Birdi, the Liberal candidate and himself a person of South Asian descent, downplayed the issue.
“My main focus is on jobs,” he said. “With this, I do have trust with Trudeau.
“Those photos of Justin Trudeau don’t matter. What matters are jobs. And wherever I go in the Skeena-Bulkley Valley that’s what I hear.”
Chief Na’Moks said he worries what it means for Indigenous people going forward.
“Canada is supposed to be a pretty caring and sharing country and when you get down to dirty politics, these things come out, but just the fact that he has these, is really disturbing,” he said.
“It’s pretty unfair when you have a two-party country. You have options in third and fourth place, but they seem to go down in the polls. This year, I think, the political race is going to get dirtier and dirtier by the day.”