A veteran Liberal candidate has apologized for claiming Black constituents have “much more love” for Justin Trudeau since his blackface scandal erupted.
Judy Sgro, the incumbent in Toronto’s Humber River-Black Creek riding, released a statement Wednesday walking back “insensitive” remarks that have raised eyebrows online.
“I should have known better, and I apologize,” Sgro said in a statement. “The history of blackface is deeply racist and it is nothing other than discriminatory.
“This issue has sparked an important conversation in our country and needs to be treated with great seriousness and sensitivity. I will continue to have these important conversations with my constituents.”
Earlier: Follow Trudeau’s racist makeup scandal from the beginning. Story continues after the video.
Sgro, a former immigration minister who was first elected in 1999, made the comments in an interview with GBKM FM radio that was posted online on Sept. 28.
Host Jacquline Dixon asked Sgro what she is hearing at the doors about the Liberal leader’s controversy. Nearly 75 per cent of the riding’s constituents are visible minorities, according to Statistics Canada.
Sgro appeared to chalk up the incidents to youthful indiscretions, saying the actions were from “20 years ago” and that others have made poor choices when they were younger.
“And those in the Black community have told me how much more love they have for the prime minister, that he wanted to have a black face,” Sgro said. “He took great pride in that, too. And that it’s the media that have blown this into something that it shouldn’t be.
“And they are very supportive and they’re actually looking for finding more ways that they can show how much they support and love the prime minister.”
Though Trudeau admitted to wearing blackface during a high school talent show and a “costume day” for river guides in the early 1990s, he also painted his face before attending an “Arabian Nights”-themed party in 2001 when he was a 29-year-old teacher.
The Liberal leader has apologized for his past actions, saying he did not recognize them as racist at the time because of his “layers of privilege.
Dixon noted in the clip that it doesn’t appear that Liberals have suffered in the polls because of the controversy. Sgro responded that Trudeau has a track record of fighting injustice, saying the Liberal government has done more to tackle the issues facing Indigenous communities than “any government has done in 100 years.”
“Prime Minister Trudeau is not afraid. And the injustices, whether it is black, white or another colour, he wants those injustices changed,” she said.
The full interview can be seen below. The conversation on blackface begins around the 26:44 mark:
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters in Montreal Wednesday that Sgro’s comments were ludicrous.
“It is embarrassing and it is shameful that she would suggest that people like Mr. Trudeau more because he did blackface,” Singh said. “That shows a massive disconnect between the Liberal party and, in fact, Mr. Trudeau, and what real people are living and what they are experiencing.”
Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who left the Liberal caucus in March and has been vocal on issues of race and discrimination, did not take kindly to Sgro’s apology.
“You got your ass handed to you and then decided to put out a statement,” she tweeted Wednesday.
Though the controversy over Trudeau’s past racist incidents has largely faded from the headlines in recent weeks, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer wasted no time referencing the matter in Monday’s English-language debate.
Scheer said Trudeau “can’t even remember how many times he put blackface on because the fact of the matter is he’s always wearing a mask.” The Tory leader blasted Trudeau as a “fraud” and a “phony.”
Watch the debate moment:
During a campaign stop in Iqaluit Tuesday, a reporter noted to Trudeau that voters there had said they were offended by his past use of racist makeup and that some are reconsidering voting Liberal over the matter.
Liberals won Nunavut’s only seat in 2015, but former cabinet minister Hunter Tootoo left the the party’s caucus in 2016 to seek treatment for addiction. Tootoo, who is not running again, spent the rest of his time in Parliament as an Independent.
“I took responsibility for terrible mistakes I made in the past that hurt people and I have endeavoured, as I have throughout my entire career, to fight for an end to racism, to fight against discrimination,” Trudeau said. “And I recognize that as a government and as an individual we have much to do. And we will.”
The Liberal leader also touted his government’s record on reconciliation and fighting discrimination, including anti-Black racism.