Opinion: Trudeau’s Brownface is Yet Another Costume

The recent brownface allegations feel apt — Trudeau often pretends to be something he is not.

Jaya Sundaresh

September 19, 2019

Opinion: Trudeau’s Brownface is Yet Another Costume
Justin Trudeau, posing with fellow teachers at an Arabian Nights-themed party in 2001. (Time)

Justin Trudeau, who hopes to become the Prime Minister of Canada for a second term, painted brown make-up on his skin as part of an Aladdin costume, as seen in a leaked picture from a 2000-1 yearbook when he worked as a private school teacher at West Point Grey Academy. 

He poses with his fellow teachers at an Arabian Nights-themed party in 2001, the only one among them with any paint on his face. His face, neck, and hands are all dark. His eyes and teeth shine in the light of the festivities and contrast harshly with his artificially dark skin. He wears a huge, gaudy turban, and places his hands provocatively around his white female colleague’s neck, whom he describes as a “close friend.” He is a seductive, mystical Eastern prince, wooing white women along to their pleasurable doom.

But Trudeau’s brown-face seems apt — he tends to wear deceiving costumes to pretend he is more than what he is. 

Seventeen years later, as Prime Minister of Canada, Trudeau is a politician who has been lauded for his multiculturalism. He has the discernment to speak Punjabi and Tamil, and wish them on their holidays — Punjabi and Tamil people make up 1.4% and 0.4% of the Canadian population, respectively. He has publicly announced plans to increase the number of immigrants crossing into Canada by 10%, and named an ethnically diverse cabinet with three Sikh politicians. “A cabinet that looks like Canada,” Trudeau described it. Most recently, he criticized a law that bars public school teachers, judges, and police officers from wearing religious symbols at work.