Prime MInister Justin Trudeau appears in this photo, released by Time Magazine, in dark makeup on his face, neck and hands at a 2001 “Arabian Nights”-themed party at Vancouver’s West Point Grey Academy, where he was a teacher. (Time)

Man who went to 2001 party doesn’t recall anyone being hurt by Trudeau in brownface

‘It’s so taken out of context. It’s applying today’s standards to yesterday’s actions’

A man who attended an “Arabian Nights” gala held by a private school in Vancouver says no one besides Justin Trudeau attended in skin-darkening makeup — but no one else was dressed as Aladdin, either.

Wayne Hamill went to the 2001 party because his kids went to West Point Grey Academy and he said the future Liberal leader’s costume was “great” and in keeping with the theme.

Other attendees, including other white people, were dressed as belly dancers or wearing saris or veils, Hamill said. He doesn’t recall anyone being offended by Trudeau’s costume or makeup.

“He didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. That’s what he did. He was a drama teacher,” said Hamill, who is white. “It’s a costume and it was in the context of the theme of the party.”

Trudeau has apologized after photographs from the event surfaced along with other images of him made up in brownface or blackface. He said he had a blind spot because of his privilege and he deeply regrets behaviour he now recognizes as racist.

Numerous Canadians of colour, including NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Indigenous federal candidates, have said Trudeau’s use of dark face paint is hurtful and insulting. Trudeau said Friday he would call Singh to personally apologize.

West Point Grey Academy released a statement Thursday saying its 2001 gala was organized by a culturally diverse group of parent volunteers and was intended to be celebratory and respectful. However, it said, it recognizes that cultural sensitivities have evolved over the past 18 years.

Sunny Khurana, a turban-wearing Sikh, also attended the party and was photographed with Trudeau.

He said Thursday he didn’t view the costume as racist and the school had no tolerance for discrimination.

Hamill, a real estate agent, said he’s not a Trudeau supporter but he believes the uproar is unfair. He said he never once, over the years, thought of coming forward with a yearbook photo to “expose” Trudeau for his costume at the event.

“Expose him for what? For being a good costume-dresser?” he said. “It’s so taken out of context. It’s applying today’s standards to yesterday’s actions. … At the time, it wasn’t as much of an issue to do that.”

He said Trudeau, who was 29 at the time, was a very expressive, enthusiastic and friendly teacher. Hamill also said the student population was diverse and included kids of South Asian, Middle Eastern, East Asian and First Nations descent.

Trudeau wrote in his 2014 memoir, “Common Ground,” that teaching at West Point Grey gave him new insights into the “privileged lives” of private-school students that he didn’t glean from his own advantaged upbringing.

“Whenever I discuss the problem of income inequality in our society, I think about the children and their families I met when teaching at that school. The parents I encountered at parent-teacher nights were successful, hard-working people, but their wealth gave some of them an excessive sense of entitlement,” he wrote.

“And many of the students had little exposure to or understanding of the larger society around them or the challenges faced by ordinary people.”

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cycling scavenger hunt comes to Tweed City

Cyclists scour Oak Bay for clues in Bike to Work Week event

Colwood woman launches Adopt a Grad

Facebook page aims to support students during pandemic

Police warn of rental scams after Saanich resident nearly falls victim to one

Always see the home, meet the landlord in person before sending money, police say

Construction at Clover Point pump station causes wastewater spill

Residents advised to stay out of water near Clover Point

Grieving together, but apart: How funeral homes are handling the pandemic

‘Hugs are so important and right now hugs can’t happen’

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

$200,000 Maybach impounded after ‘L’ driver caught excessively speeding in Vancouver

Meanwhile, the supervisor sat in the passenger seat, police said

Yukon ready to lift COVID travel restrictions with B.C. in July: premier

Premier Sandy Silver says the territory’s health-care system can cope with the virus.

‘It is dire:’ Study finds B.C. logging continues on critical caribou habitat

The federal Species At Risk Act requires provinces to identify critical habitat for caribou herds

Most Read