Trudeau calls Singh to discuss blackface photos

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has spoken to Justin Trudeau about the Liberal leader’s past appearances in blackface that emerged last week.

Singh received the private call from Trudeau as the NDP bus headed to Burnaby, B.C., for a campaign event Tuesday evening.

Trudeau was forced to apologized repeatedly last week after Time magazine published a photo of him in brownface — wearing an Aladdin costume with his face, hands and arms darkened — at an Arabian Nights-themed gala when he was a teacher at a private school in B.C. in 2001. Trudeau admitted at the time to wearing blackface on an earlier occasion at a talent show in high school, an event captured in a yearbook photo.

The next day, a video published by Global News showed him in blackface again at a summer rafting camp in the 1990s.

The Liberals said on Friday that Trudeau wanted to reach out to Singh, the first visible minority federal leader in Canada, to apologize personally for his behaviour.

Reporters riding at the front of the NDP bus Tuesday did not hear the exchange and were told about it after the fact. The party would not share any details but said the call lasted 15 to 20 minutes. In a statement, the Liberal Party said it was a “private conversation.”

Singh, who spoke last week about the pain that racialized Canadians would feel when seeing the photos of the prime minister in blackface, said he would be willing to take the call, but only if it were private and were not used for political purposes.

“I don’t want the conversation that I have with Mr. Trudeau to be used as a tool in his exoneration or to be used as a way for him to say, ‘I’ve had a conversation with a racialized leader and now I’ve done my job’,” Singh told reporters on Friday. 

“That’s up to Canadians to answer, whether they’re satisfied. It’s up to Canadians to say whether they’re happy with his responses,” Singh said.

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