September 20, 2019 / 4:09 PM / a month ago

Canada Foreign Minister Freeland 'troubled, disappointed' by Trudeau's blackface images

OTTAWA, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Canada’s Foreign Minister Chyrstia Freeland, the most visible minister in Justin Trudeau’s government and a key ally, said she was “troubled and disappointed” by images of the prime minister in blackface but that she accepted his apology.

Freeland did not issue her statement until late on Thursday, more than 24 hours after the emergence of damaging images of a 29-year-old Trudeau wearing dark make-up at a 2001 “Arabian Nights” party. Other Trudeau images from the early 1990s came to light on Thursday.

Freeland, often touted as a potential successor to Trudeau, wanted to speak to her constituents before making a public comment on the issue, which resulted in the delay, a spokesman said on Friday.

“I was troubled and disappointed when I saw the images of the Prime Minister in brownface and blackface. Racism and intolerance are unacceptable,” she said in a statement.

Freeland said she believed Trudeau’s apology was “sincere and deeply felt. I believe in his commitment to do better.”

Freeland is attending a Trudeau campaign announcement in Toronto on Friday, spokesman Adam Austen said, adding part of the delay in her response was due to the fact that the first request for comment was not received until noon on Thursday.

“Of course Chrystia Freeland fully and unequivocally supports the prime minister,” he said.

She discussed the issue on Thursday afternoon with some of her young constituents.

Trudeau, who has long run on his progressive credentials, introduced a gender-balanced cabinet when he took office in 2015 and appointed a number of minorities to top cabinet positions, including the defence, immigration and natural resources portfolios.

In contrast to Freeland’s measured response, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, a practicing Sikh, spoke directly to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp and other media on Thursday in Trudeau’s defense.

“As I have gotten to know Justin, I know these photos do not represent the person he is now and I know how much he regrets it,” Sajjan said on Twitter.

Another Indo-Canadian cabinet minister, Amarjeet Sohi, echoed the sentiment, saying that while he was “disheartened and disappointed” by the images, they did not reconcile with the Trudeau he knew now.

In the past, Freeland offered unwavering support for Trudeau when a top watchdog said that he had breached ethics rules by pressuring his former justice minister to ensure a major construction firm avoid a corruption trial.

Trudeau said on Thursday that growing up the white son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau had left him with a “massive blindspot”. (Reporting by Steve Scherer, additional reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by David Gregorio)

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