The Current

'Bad judgment' or harmful pattern? Strategists weigh in on Justin Trudeau 'brownface' photo scandal

Political strategists Shuvaloy Majumdar and Omar Khan on Justin Trudeau's brownface photo, plus a conversation with CBC reporter Tom Parry about his late-night apology on board the Liberal campaign plane.

Shuvaloy Majumdar and Omar Khan on Trudeau’s apologies and next steps

Omar Khan, Liberal strategist and vice-president for public affairs with Hill+Knowlton strategies, described the shock, anger and regret he experienced when news of the brownface photo broke. (CBC)

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In the hours after the news of federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's brownface photo broke, Liberal strategist Omar Khan says he went through a range of emotions. 

"Initially shock, followed by a little bit of anger, followed by regret — because I do know Mr. Trudeau personally, and I know him not be what is represented in that photo," Khan, who is the vice president of public affairs with Hill and Knowlton Strategies, said on Thursday morning. 

Shuvaloy Majumdar, a former policy director to Conservative foreign ministers, sees it differently. 

"This is a prime minister who has been virtue signalling around the world and here at home. What he's done is domestically damaging and globally embarrassing. And it speaks to a pattern of events that's not just isolated to 2001," Majumdar said. 

Both men spoke to The Current interim host Laura Lynch in the hours after the photo was published by Time Magazine.

Since then, a separate video of Trudeau in blackface has also come to light.

Although the two strategists come from different political sides, both acknowledged that the incident called back difficult memories. 

"I know the tinge of, you know, being called the P-word and being ashamed of your skin colour. And that does burn deeply," said Khan. 

"I think that that kind of hurt is something that a lot of people of colour have grown up with," added Majumdar.

To discuss the fallout of Trudeau's brownface photo, Lynch spoke with:

  • Omar Khan, vice president of public affairs with Hill and Knowlton Strategies.
  • Shuvaloy Majumdar, former policy director to Conservative foreign ministers.
  • CBC reporter Tom Parry, who was aboard the Liberals' campaign plane for Trudeau's Wednesday night apology.

Written by Kate McGillivray. ​​​​Produced by John Chipman, Cathy Simon, Geoff Turner and Elizabeth Hoath.