Edmonton

Liberal Amarjeet Sohi pained to see Trudeau in brownface

Sohi called the images “indefensible” but reiterated his support for the embattled Liberal leader.

'I felt that racism and discrimination that I have experienced'

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau apologized to Edmonton Mill Woods incumbent Amarjeet Sohi Thursday morning for wearing racist makeup in the past. (The Canadian Press)

Edmonton Mill Woods incumbent Amarjeet Sohi says it was "disappointing and disheartening" to see an image emerge of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau in brownface.

Time Magazine published a 2001 photo Wednesday night of Trudeau in brownface and a turban. Trudeau was dressed as Aladdin for a gala at the Vancouver private school where he worked as a teacher.

Trudeau acknowledged late Wednesday he recognizes now it was "something racist to do and I am deeply sorry."

The image set off an international scandal over cultural appropriation by a leader who built his brand on progressivism.

"Last night, when I saw that image, I felt pain," Sohi told CBC Radio's Adrienne Pan Thursday.

"I felt that racism and discrimination that I have experienced and many other racialized groups and members of racialized communities face."

Two more instances of Trudeau appearing in racist makeup have since emerged. 

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)

Sohi, who has been a key member of Trudeau's cabinet, said Trudeau apologized to him Thursday morning, saying, "This should never have happened."

Sohi called the images "indefensible" but reiterated his support for the embattled Liberal leader.

"He is a champion of diversity, he is a champion of inclusion and he has demonstrated through his actions that diversity matters, that we need to end racism and discrimination," Sohi said.

Sohi said he told Trudeau Thursday morning that the incident could spark deeper conversations among Canadians about combating institutionalized discrimination.

"These incidents and these images remind us that there's more to be done," he told CBC.

Sohi said his volunteers and supporters have also been hurt by the images.

Tim Uppal, who is running against Sohi in the Edmonton Mill Woods riding, tweeted about the photos Thursday.

"Justin Trudeau's racist pics and video really hit home because we have been helping our seven-year-old son deal with racism since he was told, 'You can't be my friend because you have brown skin,'" Uppal wrote.

Uppal lost to Sohi in the 2015 federal election.

Sohi said people will have to reach their own conclusions about Trudeau's apology.

"But I have known the prime minister for the last four years and no other leader that I have known has shown so much commitment to ending racism and discrimination."

About the Author

Madeleine Cummings is a digital journalist with CBC Edmonton.