It’s hard to know where to even begin with the wave of revelations over the past few hours that Justin Trudeau, our diversity-embracing progressive prime minister, has a history of racist costumes. Since I first sat down and began writing this column, a third such incident has been revealed. I honestly don’t know what else is going to happen in the time it takes me to finish.
One immediate thought is that this is, as partisan opponents of the prime minister have been quick to gleefully note, yet another example of his carefully constructed public persona being revealed as hypocritical or outright false by his private conduct. In much the same way that the SNC-Lavalin scandal was damaging for the prime minister precisely because of his efforts to portray himself as a feminist, these incidents of blackface strike at the heart of his “Canada welcomes you” love of tolerance and diversity.
Another angle, obviously, is the broader conversation about issues of racism, appropriation and privilege. I suspect there will be a lot about this in the days to come, from people better able to speak on those issues than I am. I look forward to reading those articles, no doubt with as much intensity as the prime minister and his staff is not looking forward to anyone reading them.
And then there is the third angle, the issue of forgiveness and redemption. Our society is in desperate need of some sense of when an offence unforgivable by contemporary standards can be written off as either a youthful error or a product of an earlier, less enlightened era. As it stands now, all we have is a sliding scale: maximum forgiveness for those who agree with us and none at all for those who do not. That’s not going to be sustainable in the long run. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer may now regret saying a few days ago that someone who apologizes for past mistakes should be forgiven. Presumably that would apply to Trudeau, not just his own candidates. But I still think Scheer had the right idea. We’ll have to see if he bothers living up to it.