The discovery by Canadians last week that their prime minister of the last four years had a youthful – and not so youthful – penchant for wearing blackface is one of the great political oddities of our time. We just had no idea that this side of Justin Trudeau existed. And after being caught in the act, on film or video, in three separate blackface appearances spanning more than a decade, the Liberal leader refused to say definitively that there were not other occasions on top of those. Which strongly suggests there were. How very strange.
But blackface wasn’t the only weird disclosure about Justin Trudeau to emerge during his first term as prime minister. While the media were ambivalent about making much of it, the fact remains that Justin must be the only political leader in history who, before his climb to power, was called out in a newspaper editorial for groping a woman reporter. In a statement released last year, the woman affirmed that the “incident referred to in the editorial did occur, as reported.”
What made these revelations most surprising was that they were so out of character for the staunchly feminist, anti-racist Justin Trudeau. Has he not made himself the poster person for gender equality and diversity? Has he not surrounded himself conspicuously, in cabinet and countless photo-ops, with women and visible minorities? Isn’t that what he’s all about?
Maybe, but maybe not really. Because now we know at least some of what his handlers knew when they were grooming him for the top job. To them, he told all. They knew about the blackface. They knew about the Creston editorial and his quoted to-the-manor-born apology: “I’m sorry. If I had known you were reporting for a national paper, I never would have been so forward.” These vulnerabilities have been known to the inner circle for more than a decade.
Anticipating the eventual exposure, was the Justin Trudeau persona reverse-engineered? Was it designed, stupid costumes and all, to contain the inevitable fallout?
It’s been pointed out that no other politician would have gotten a pass like Justin – and that he himself would have led the howl for the miscreant’s head – for these and more recent misdeeds, such as elbowing a woman MP in the chest when he lost control of himself in the House of Commons in May 2016 and of course for his treatment of Jody Wilson-Raybould.
He got a pass – because his feminist and anti-racist credentials were solid gold.
They’ve served as convenient protection so far. In just over three weeks, we’ll know how convinced Canadians remain.