Whitewater and blackface: The backstory on the Trudeau clip that shocked the world

It is a racist shame by any measure, a self-imposed humiliation that will cling to Justin Trudeau for life, regardless of how Canada’s next election ends up.But bad as it is — bad as it will always be — there is one especially painful facet of the Trudeau blackface scandal that can now be dismissed, as evidenced by higher-resolution images obtained by the Toronto Star.

The images — taken from a previously undisclosed, uncompressed version of the blurry video of a 23-year-old Trudeau leaping about in blackface at an end-of-summer bash in the Laurentians — confirm that the splash of yellow on the future Liberal leader’s shirt is not the intentionally racist trope many took it to be.Those aren’t bananas, the pictures show. The splash of yellow is from an image of a tropical bird. A drawing of a toucan, to be precise. The future prime minister is wearing a bird shirt.A handful of online sleuths already had their doubts about Trudeau’s so-called “banana T-shirt” when the blurry yet damning clip was released last week by the Conservative campaign war room to Global News — and instantly thereafter, all the world’s screens.But for thousands of partisans on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, there was no question about the fuzzy, open-to-interpretation visuals: the “banana T-shirt” was undeniable evidence of premeditated, hateful intent.

The now very clear toucan T-shirt images were found on a trove of old hard drives by whitewater rafting expert Rob Gravelle, who worked alongside Trudeau half a lifetime ago as a river guide at New World Rafting in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge.When the Star reached out to Gravelle last weekend, it was in search of the backstory of how the devastating clip came to be. He was there at the party and witnessed the blackface antics that may yet determine Trudeau’s political fate.