Prime MInister Justin Trudeau appears in this photo, released by Time Magazine, in dark makeup on his face, neck and hands at a 2001 “Arabian Nights”-themed party at Vancouver’s West Point Grey Academy, where he was a teacher. (Time)

Man who went to 2001 party doesn’t recall anyone being hurt by Trudeau in brownface

‘It’s so taken out of context. It’s applying today’s standards to yesterday’s actions’

A man who attended an “Arabian Nights” gala held by a private school in Vancouver says no one besides Justin Trudeau attended in skin-darkening makeup — but no one else was dressed as Aladdin, either.

Wayne Hamill went to the 2001 party because his kids went to West Point Grey Academy and he said the future Liberal leader’s costume was “great” and in keeping with the theme.

Other attendees, including other white people, were dressed as belly dancers or wearing saris or veils, Hamill said. He doesn’t recall anyone being offended by Trudeau’s costume or makeup.

“He didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. That’s what he did. He was a drama teacher,” said Hamill, who is white. “It’s a costume and it was in the context of the theme of the party.”

Trudeau has apologized after photographs from the event surfaced along with other images of him made up in brownface or blackface. He said he had a blind spot because of his privilege and he deeply regrets behaviour he now recognizes as racist.

Numerous Canadians of colour, including NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Indigenous federal candidates, have said Trudeau’s use of dark face paint is hurtful and insulting. Trudeau said Friday he would call Singh to personally apologize.

West Point Grey Academy released a statement Thursday saying its 2001 gala was organized by a culturally diverse group of parent volunteers and was intended to be celebratory and respectful. However, it said, it recognizes that cultural sensitivities have evolved over the past 18 years.

Sunny Khurana, a turban-wearing Sikh, also attended the party and was photographed with Trudeau.

He said Thursday he didn’t view the costume as racist and the school had no tolerance for discrimination.

Hamill, a real estate agent, said he’s not a Trudeau supporter but he believes the uproar is unfair. He said he never once, over the years, thought of coming forward with a yearbook photo to “expose” Trudeau for his costume at the event.

“Expose him for what? For being a good costume-dresser?” he said. “It’s so taken out of context. It’s applying today’s standards to yesterday’s actions. … At the time, it wasn’t as much of an issue to do that.”

He said Trudeau, who was 29 at the time, was a very expressive, enthusiastic and friendly teacher. Hamill also said the student population was diverse and included kids of South Asian, Middle Eastern, East Asian and First Nations descent.

Trudeau wrote in his 2014 memoir, “Common Ground,” that teaching at West Point Grey gave him new insights into the “privileged lives” of private-school students that he didn’t glean from his own advantaged upbringing.

“Whenever I discuss the problem of income inequality in our society, I think about the children and their families I met when teaching at that school. The parents I encountered at parent-teacher nights were successful, hard-working people, but their wealth gave some of them an excessive sense of entitlement,” he wrote.

“And many of the students had little exposure to or understanding of the larger society around them or the challenges faced by ordinary people.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

LIVE STORY: Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon candidates square off at forum

Join the Journal as we feature live coverage of the Oct. 16 forum at the Ashcroft HUB

“It’s much more personal, much more vicious. There’s a willingness to go low and be dirty.”

Federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May reflects on an election campaign like no other she’s known

Enjoy a hot meal and help support Sea Cadets on Oct. 17

Interior Savings staff will be serving up a by-donation meal at the Legion on Thursday

Historic 19th century Ashcroft church gets very modern addition

St. Alban’s Church, built in 1891, now boasts a solar array that will meet its electricity needs

Ashcroft maintains 5 Blooms–Bronze rating in Communities in Bloom competition

Village receives special recognition for colourful street banners

VIDEO: U.S. officials refute British couple’s ‘accidental’ border-crossing claim

Authorities say couple was arrested after illegal entry from B.C., with $16,000 and marijuana

Woman, 24, faces life-altering injuries after being dragged 4 blocks by vehicle in Vancouver

A gofundme account says the woman will have to undergo multiple complex surgeries

Fatal overdoses down by 33% in B.C., but carfentanil deaths continue to spike

Carfentanil, an illicit drug more powerful than fentanyl, causing more deaths than ever

A year after pot legalization in Canada, it’s a slow roll

It’s one year into Canada’s experiment in legal marijuana, and hundreds of legal pot shops have opened

ELECTION 2019: Climate strikes push environment to top of mind for federal leaders

Black Press Media presents a three-part series on three big election issues

ICBC willing to loosen grip on driver claim data, David Eby says

Private insurers say claims record monopoly keeps them out

B.C. principal suspended for failing to help student who reported inappropriate touching

Principal didn’t remove student from the teacher’s class nor call the parents within a reasonable time

Most Read