Once upon a time, there was a handsome prince who was mugged by reality and turned, seemingly overnight, into Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a silly, privileged man.
It was a very subdued PM Trudeau who spoke on his campaign plane with reporters on Wednesday, expressing contrition for carousing in an Aladdin costume, complete with blackface, in a just-published photograph. The yearbook photo was from a gala evening during his very brief tenure as a part-time drama teacher in a posh Vancouver private school in 2001. He told the press that he did not understand at the time that his costume could have racist overtones and he now regrets that.
As is his habit, Trudeau also shared with the media that he was going to use this episode as yet another of his “teaching moments.” He planned to explain to his children that we all make mistakes and what’s important is that we learn from them.
Except that there’s a lot more to the story.
Justin Trudeau, the trust fund pinup son of former Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau, has cultivated a celebrity global progressive image, and he believes his own, you know, stuff. He has also turned heads and won hearts the world over with his movie-star good looks, gorgeous wife and kids, audacious socks and, so we are told, hip, forward outlook.
He’s a feminist. Cuz, like, why not? He’s an environmentalist. He is going to restore dignity to Canada’s First Nations. He celebrates diversity. Immigration. Syrian refugees. Heck, he even welcomes back Canadians who volunteered to serve ISIS, and with open arms. “A Canadian is a Canadian,” he shared with the nation, in yet another stirring “teaching moment.”
Just how long he actually spent teaching is a subject of some mystery, perhaps explaining why the Economist prefers the moniker of “former snowboard instructor.”
This blackface fiasco is a thermonuclear blow to the Trudeau brand, building on two years of escalating gaffes and missteps to tip the balance, decidedly not in his favor.
There was the India dress-up roadshow, when he hopped off with his family on what was touted as an “official visit” but really a week-long Vogue spread featuring the Trudeau family in bespoke traditional Indian costume, affecting prayerful poses. There were virtually no official meetings, and his brief encounter with President Modi was at the end of the week-long frolic.
In the weeks following his return, Trudeau had his national security adviser tell reporters that the invitation of a Canadian-Indian with past terrorist ties to an official event hosted at the Canadian Embassy in India was actually orchestrated by elements in Indian intelligence and was calculated to embarrass the prime minister.
Indian President Narendra Modi was not impressed, as expressed by the almost immediate imposition of exorbitant tariffs on certain Canadian exports to India.
And there was the prolonged debacle of what seems to have been his inner circle, and the prime minister himself, bullying two senior female cabinet ministers to the point that they felt ethically unable to serve under his leadership and resigned. They were being pressured to give a free pass to engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, which was being investigated for serious and serial corruption.
The prime minister’s response? To eject them from the party’s caucus, spread vicious rumors about them being “difficult” and, clearly, accusing them of experiencing their abuse “differently.” He was just trying to protect “Canadian jobs,” he keeps reminding us, and, as his senior advisers told the cabinet ministers, there was an election to be won.
More recently, Trudeau’s party was forced to drop a Montreal area candidate for openly supporting Hamas members. That candidate’s replacement is a Montreal man who once said it was a matter of debate as to whether Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11. That speculation tends to be code for the Mossad and CIA. While a student at a Montreal university, this particular candidate was an outspoken anti-Israeli and pro-BDS activist. He has been embraced by PM Trudeau and his Liberal colleagues to represent them in the coming election.
And it turns out there are more blackface gems of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Global TV teased the existence of one while they worked on “authenticating” it, only to promptly release it in the last 24-hours. It seems the authentication process was expedited overnight, immediately following the Time publication of the incriminating photo.
It’s astonishing, really, that Canadian media, which is (with a few exceptions) embarrassingly sycophantic towards the prime minister and his progressive posse, were scooped by Time. But it is not at all surprising. There is extra sting in Canada when domestic political issues become a sensation in the U.S. It is perceived to be inappropriate, in some sort of weird, anachronistic, Royal Doulton tea-time sort of way. Global had the video. It is difficult to believe that others in Canadian media had not been shown the yearbook photo. But no one ran it.
Then again, perhaps their reluctance to publish the blackface photo is due to the $600 million in cash promised by the Trudeau government and doled out in recent months to various media outlets. For real.
Trudeau is being properly judged for his serial blackface fetish in the harshest, most uncompromising terms. He has swaggered around the world, and across Canada, shaming people who have the temerity to question his policies for being “racist.” He proclaimed, that, with his ascension, “Canadian values” were back. The implication, of course, that the 60 percent of voters who did not support him were, somehow, un-Canadian.
That’s not an inference; this government has made the charge explicit. When people questioned his government’s embrace of Central American queue-jumpers seeking asylum in Canada via the United States, his Minister of Immigration upbraided them for being “un-Canadian. That kind of self-righteous hectoring and finger-wagging tends to wear thin.
Trudeau and his team may well be trounced in the election, not for having done stupid things or even racist things. Rather, they will be hoisted on their own smug petards for lashing out at and humiliating anyone who had the temerity to question their Instagram style of governing and depth of policy.
And, that, boys and girls, is a “teaching moment” that the former snowboard instructor denies others and very badly needs to learn.