Is Trudeau photo fury beginning to fade?
Published Friday, September 20, 2019 6:58PM PDT
Last Updated Friday, September 20, 2019 7:06PM PDT
The third day of the controversy swirling around Justin Trudeau's racist makeup came with more conversation about racism and its impact on Canadian society, but also a suggestion that voters may be willing to move on from a series of photos the Liberal leader calls "embarrassing."
Three separate incidents of Trudeau in costumes with brown- and black-face make-up have emerged and he has apologized several times, acknowledging what he did was wrong and that he takes full responsibility for his actions.
Despite the crushing headlines and denunciation of the tone-deaf costumes and face paint, observers say it’s too soon to count Trudeau out of a majority government, and it seems voters may be growing weary of the controversy in part because Trudeau has been dogged by controversy for some time now.
"I do think there is a bit of scandal fatigue already, with SNC-Lavalin before it, with the India trip and with the vacation scandal, so all these things have led to a kind of fatigue within the public for talking about issues that aren't really policy-relevant and I do think that is pretty indicative right now that people do want to move on and turn the page," said SFU Undergraduate Program Chair and senior political science lecturer, Sanjay Jeram.
He also suspects many Canadians are thinking about skeletons in their own closets from questionable decisions in their pre-social media years and are willing to accept his apologies. Jeram also points to increasing fracturing along the political spectrum that has many voters choosing a camp – and sticking with it.
"I don't think it's hurt him as much as people would’ve expected because at this point in the election it seems his numbers, in the low-to-mid-30-per-cent range, are his partisan supporters and who support his vision and what he's done so far, so he's probably not going to lose them,” said Jeram. “But to win the election with a majority he's going to need to make some gains and that's going to perhaps going to be harder after this scandal and the ones that came before it."
Man in the photo
One man who’s already turned the page and is urging others to do the same is one of two turbaned men pictured with Trudeau in his Aladdin garb at a 2001 Arabian Nights-themed gala for a west side private school in Vancouver; Trudeau was 29 at the time.
"My respect for him has gone up even more because he apologized," insisted Sunny Khurana from his popular sari shop in Surrey.
Khurana says his children enjoyed their years at tony West Point Grey Academy, where Trudeau was a teacher, and that the “mixed community” of the school has left the family with nothing but positive memories – including of the gala.
“I know that [the costume] wasn't putting down anybody, if I would've felt that obviously I wouldn't be in that photo with him,” said Khurana. “We’re brown ourselves, right? So we didn’t feel anything at the time. I think we’ve got to forgive and move forward.”
Another “Arabian Night” event
As Canadians discuss the racist makeup and how to grapple with issues around offensive and culturally insensitive behaviour, Vancouver’s Syrian-Canadian community is hosting an event titled "Arabian Night," featuring food, music and entertainment from the Middle East.
Co-organizer Anas Al Hassan says while he was initially caught off-guard by Trudeau’s dark face make-up, he has accepted his apologies, and suspects the entire scandal is engineered to hurt the Liberal leader ahead of the election rather than shine a light on an issue that should be addressed in Canadian society.
"I don't think he meant it [to be offensive] and I think he's not the person whose character is built on humiliating people,” said Al Hassan. “I don’t feel it is offensive because it depends on his intention and I don’t feel that he meant to humiliate.”
Al Hassan says his event at the Anza Club is a fundraiser for Syrian refugees and that all are welcome, including Trudeau.
“He's invited to come to join us, but without the [face] colours.”