At eleven o’clock on Wednesday, September 11 this year, Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, arrived at Rideau Hall, the official residence of Canada’s Governor-General, Julie Payette, and asked her to dissolve parliament, allowing a federal election to be called for October 21 2019.
She gave her consent.
Both the Governor-General and the Prime Minister seemed to have forgotten the tragic events of September 11 eighteen years earlier in the United States.
On September 18 2019, one week later, Time magazine published a picture it had been given by a Vancouver, British Columbia, businessman – Michael Adamson.
Both Trudeau and Adamson were described as being “members of the West Point Grey Academy community”.
The picture showed a 29-year-old Trudeau, who was a French teacher in the spring of 2001, at the exclusive and expensive boys’ day school, taken during an “Arabian Nights” themed gala at the school.
It had come from the 2000-2001 school’s Yearbook – “The View” – and showed Trudeau wearing a turban and robes, with his face, neck and hands darkened.
Time magazine said the businessman, Adamson, had seen the photograph in July this year and “felt it should be made public “. The year book, with the Trudeau photograph, was obtained by Time in early September.
In 1989 Time and Warner Communications merged to become Time-Warner. In November 2017, Meredith Corporation, backed by Koch Equity Developments, announced it had bought the magazine. Both Meredith and Koch are noted solid Republican supporters and large financial contributors.
In September 2018, Meredith announced it was “flipping” Time to Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne – both strong supporters of the Democratic Party – for $US190-million. The deal was completed the following month. Part of that deal kept Benioff away from making editorial decisions as well as the daily operations of Time.
Up to now, no-one has yet asked about it or suggested it, but what if President Trump [with his seeming uneasy dislike of Prime Minister Trudeau] found a way, through the president’s major donors, to discredit him by a racial smear?
Now back to the photograph of Prime Minister Trudeau, in what has become known internationally as “Trudeau’s brownface moment”.
Trudeau was quick to apologize to all Canadians, as well as to the country’s indigenous population, for the “brownface” in the photograph, describing the actions of his 29-year-old self as “thoughtless”.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper published a long, thoughtful piece headlined “Justin Trudeau: the rise and fall of a political brand”. The Guardian story says “Trudeau’s distinctly Canadian appeal goes even deeper. The prime minister represents a potent idea of Canada and what it means to the world”.
Many Canadians feel a deep connection to Justin Trudeau, who has grown up in the public eye. He was born – December 25 1971 – while his father, Pierre, was prime minister. In essence, Justin Trudeau was a celebrity before he became prime minister.
There are suggestions from political commentators, that Justin Trudeau has “Justin Trudeauness – being the stand out glamorous son of the deeply intelligent, truly charismatic prime minister Pierre Trudeau”.
Has the “brownface” incident affected his campaign for re-election?
In town-hall meetings and public events, where he continues [much to the dismay of his Mountie security] to plunge into crowds for selfies and questions, Trudeau remains publicly confident.
Like any prime minister, he’s made missteps during his four years as head of a majority Liberal government. Will these “errors of judgement” come back to haunt him? Possibly, although his four opponents appear more eager to roll out their vision for Canada, rather than try to pick away at Trudeau’s mistakes.
Soon after the yearbook photograph appeared in Time magazine, a Canadian television network broadcast a grainy video from the early 1990s, showing him in blackface when Trudeau was in an un-named high school talent show. The occasion was Trudeau singing, in the style of African-American singer and civil rights activist, Harry Belafonte, the Jamaican folk song “Day-O”. No source for the brief video has been made public.
One noted political commentator wrote, after the brown and black face incidents became public: “For anyone else, resignation would be unavoidable – and the correct thing to do. Mr. Trudeau’s conduct shatters his every pious progressive pretension. We should expect the same pattern of honour from him, as he would insist on from others…”.
Social media would suggest that a great many users – mostly aged between 20 and 50 – don’t like any of the other party leaders and will continue to support and vote for Justin Trudeau.
October 21 will be an interesting night in Canadian political history.
Louis Cooper is a retired journalist and network television news producer, having lived and worked in four countries and worked for Australian newspapers and networks in Canada, the US and the UK.