British Columbia

'I was extremely disappointed': Jody Wilson-Raybould responds to Trudeau brownface controversy

Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was kicked out of the Liberal party caucus in the fallout to the SNC-Lavalin affair, said she was "extremely disappointed" after seeing a photo of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau dressed in brownface.

Wilson-Raybould appeared with Jane Philpott, another former Liberal running as an independent

Independent candidate Jody Wilson-Raybould campaigned in Vancouver just hours after a photo was released of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau dressed in brownface. (CBC)

Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was kicked out of the Liberal party caucus in the fallout to the SNC-Lavalin affair, said she was "extremely disappointed" after seeing a photo of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau dressed in brownface.

The photo, published Wednesday in Time Magazine, shows Trudeau dressed up in brownface and a turban in 2001 for a gala at West Point Grey Academy, a private school in Vancouver's west side where he once worked.

"It's awful," Wilson-Raybould told reporters at a campaign rally Wednesday evening. "When I first saw it, I didn't think it was real.

"But I will say I'm incredibly proud to be an Indigenous person in this country, one that has experienced racism and discrimination. It's completely unacceptable for anybody in a position of authority and power to do something like that."

Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, two former Liberal cabinet members now running as Independents, respond to the photo of Justin Trudeau in brownface. 1:03

The campaign rally Wednesday also featured Jane Philpott, the former health minister who Trudeau also turfed from his caucus in April. 

Philpott's expulsion came after she resigned from the Liberal cabinet and publicly stated she had lost confidence in how the Trudeau government was handling the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Both women are now running as independent candidates.

The two were greeted by more than 200 supporters at the Hellenic Community Centre, just a few kilometres from the private school where Trudeau once worked.

"It was very disturbing to see the photo for a whole variety of reasons," Philpott said. 

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is shown in this 2001 photo published in the yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private school where Trudeau was teaching at the time. (Time.com)

"It's the act of racism as well as the fact it's been hidden all these years. Those are concerning things. The position of prime minister is a position of high esteem and we expect the very best of our leaders."

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May made a surprise appearance at the rally to support both candidates. When asked if she thought Trudeau was racist, May said much of the racism in Canada is unconscious.

"At that point in his life, I think you'd have to say he was unconsciously racist," May said of Trudeau. "I would not say today the man I know is a racist. But I could not imagine that photo either."

May noted that the Liberal leader quickly apologized for the brownface incident, but has yet to apologize to Wilson-Raybould after Canada's ethics commissioner found Trudeau inappropriately tried to influence Wilson-Raybould when she was attorney general. 

With files from Meera Bains