Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized to Canadians on Wednesday for dressing up in brownface when he was a 29-year-old teacher in Vancouver in 2001.
Trudeau was responding to a bombshell report Wednesday in Time that Trudeau “wore brownface makeup” to the Arabian Nights-themed event.
The prime minister confirmed the story on camera to media late Wednesday from his campaign plane in Halifax.
"I shouldn't have done that. I should have known better, but I didn't, and I'm really sorry," he said.
"I deeply regret that I did that."
The prime minister also admitted to another time: “When I was in high school, I dressed up at a talent show and sang Day-O with makeup on."
Trudeau said that while he realizes now it was racist of him to do, he didn't think so at the time. "I'm pissed off at myself... I'm apologizing to Canadians."
The magazine published a photo of the then-29-year-old Trudeau wearing a turban and with his face darkened that it said appeared in a yearbook of a private school where Trudeau was a teacher.
Liberal Party spokeswoman Zita Astravas confirmed to the magazine that Trudeau was in the photo, and that he was "dressed as a character from Aladdin.”
Trudeau said he only found out about the story breaking on Wednesday. He said he had made a number of calls to "friends and colleagues" and will have many more to make.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims had called on Trudeau to apologize for the incident.
“Seeing the prime minister in brownface/blackface is deeply saddening,” executive director Mustafa Farooq said in a statement, before Trudeau spoke Wednesday.
“The wearing of blackface/brownface is reprehensible, and hearkens back to a history of racism and an Orientalist mythology which is unacceptable.”
After Trudeau's apology, the council put out an update thanking Trudeau for the quick reaction.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) is calling on the Prime Minister to apologize for wearing “brownface”/”blackface” at an Arabian Nights Party in 2001. (1/3)https://t.co/gJHYeV0kFS— NCCM (@nccm) September 18, 2019
Green party Leader Elizabeth May tweeted earlier that she was "deeply shocked by the racism shown in the photograph" and called on Trudeau to apologize "and commit to learning and appreciating the requirement to model social justice leadership at all levels of government."
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh had been asked for his reaction before Trudeau spoke. He said it was "insulting."
"Any time we hear examples of brownface or blackface, it's making a mockery... I think that he has to answer for this," he said of Trudeau.
"Racism is real; people in this room have felt it."