Rivers on the Prime Minister: 'That’ll Teach Him for Browning Around'


Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 20th, 2019



After the release of an old photo showing our prime minister dressed up for an Arabian Nights gala at the high school where he taught classes back then, there is only one question on everyone’s mind. Who is the real Justin Trudeau? Is he, indeed, the son of our most celebrated PM, Pierre, or is Justin really Aladdin? Not to start any rumours, but how many of us really knew what went on during those days of Trudeau-mania?

If so why didn’t he use his magic carpet to fly off to chum with his daddy’s old buddy, the Aga Khan, instead of relying on Mr. Khan’s hospitality, and thereby ticking off the ethics commissioner? And when it came to governance, why didn’t he just use his magic lamp on Jodi and Jane – to wish them away instead of suffering through that messy Justice Committee hearing business?

Trudeay blackface

It did happen; he did apologize: now let’s see how he bears up during the rest of the campaign.

But seriously, in today’s world, it doesn’t matter why you do, or did what you did, it only matters that you did it. And historical mistakes are still mistakes. Political parties vet candidates for office; investigating what they had done in their past which might damage them and hurt their chances in the voters’ eyes.

Someone with a criminal record, for example, would likely be rejected by most parties, notwithstanding that they’ve already paid the price of their crime to society. Wearing blackface is not a criminal offence and it may not have been intended to mock or insult. But it is still considered incorrect, since its origins are based on racism.

At one time black performers were excluded from performing before non-black crowds. So white performers emulated them, quite often making them an object of ridicule for entertainment. It wasn’t the Ku Klux Klan and it may have been an America a generation or two ago, but the hurt still continues.

Political correctness is important in politics, almost regardless that the intention may not be to mock, hurt or offend. One needs to be sensitive to the feelings of others.

Mr. Trudeau as PM has been a strong advocate of human and civil rights. And that is perhaps why the revelations of these skeletons from his past, innocent as they may have seemed at the time, are still hurtful, indeed shocking to all of us. And it’s true that he set himself up for the repercussions of this latest outcry – the bigger you are the harder you fall.

Mr. Trudeau recently pulled a candidate’s nomination for comments he made which were considered anti-Semitic. He has attacked Mr. Scheer for his party’s links to apparent white supremacists. He has suggested he might intervene in the Quebec law which bans wearing cultural paraphernalia in the broader public service. And he has attacked Maxine Bernier for his position on immigration as racially motivated.

The revelations of at least three situations in his own distant past, where he wore dark makeup in performances, are shocking for a man with that kind of profile and record. He has fallen off his high horse, tumbled off the pedestal upon which he had lifted himself.

Trudeau -facing the music

Trudeau -facing the music

But he has apologized for his past actions and asked/begged, forgiveness from the Canadian people. He admits that what he did was racist, though he wasn’t aware of its significance when he did it. The media interviewed people on the street and the reaction was fairly muted. Twenty years is a long time ago after all, and who doesn’t have something in their closet that they’d rather not let out?

But Trudeau’s political opponents are making political hay – and that is all fair in the game we’re in, barely a month from the election. We have come to expect a lot of our prime ministers, not only how they run our government but also who they really are. Does the public really believe that their PM is a racist? After all, wasn’t it his father who gave us multiculturalism in the first place?


Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

Brown Face in Vancouver –   Origins of Blackface

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11 comments to Rivers on the Prime Minister: ‘That’ll Teach Him for Browning Around’

  • A question to ask yourself that would help give context: would you ever elect a 29 year old prime minister? Most likely not, probably because he or she wouldn’t be mature enough. So why judge someone on their actions from that age?

  • I would agree with JG – we do deserve better. Has he looked at the offering other than the current Prime Minister? Two of them do not have the capacity to form a government and the other could form a government that would take us where? The hope for the country is a minority Liberal government with the Greens holding the balance of power. This country has been well served by minority governments.

  • Bob

    Living around the Ontario/Quebec border, the October Crisis is a vivid memory. PET declared marshal law, Pierre Laporte turned up dead in the trunk of a car. I have serious doubts that JT could act or respond in a gale force like crisis, other than being costumed as Inspector Clouseau, socks and all.

  • Joe Gaetan

    And yet, many die hard supporters will blindly vote for him and the party faithful who stood by allowing him to make a mockery of so many things. I wonder if he will blame this on that nasty Harper fellow? I am in Europe right now and am truly embarassed for Canada by the coverage, we deserve better than this man.

  • Don Fletcher

    I agree with much that has already been written. He’s a hypocrite. Did you pickup on the fact that he didn’t declare dressing up in blackface at his vetting to be a Liberal candidate because he was “embarrassed” but that he has just realized how hurtful/ distasteful it was when the pictures surfaced? He’s obviously speaking “his truth” but it doesn’t add up for me! Let’s hope the majority of Canadian voters put an decisive end to this Liberal circus on October 21st.

  • Hans Jacobs

    While there is clearly much to criticize about Justin Trudeau, the bottom line question remains “who would be the better leader for Canada”; i.e., Scheer or Trudeau? And why?
    Trudeau has a poor record while Scheer has no meaningful record and is trying to distance himself from Doug Ford.
    I don’t like my choices; maybe they will be better four years from now but even a short period of incompetent government can be regrettable……

  • Penny Hersh

    “Will the real Justin Trudeau Stand UP” Does anyone remember his eulogy at his father’s funeral? I do. At the time I thought he sounds ridiculous. He’s playing a role and a bad one at that. There was nothing in the way he presented himself that day that had a ring of real emotion.

    I watched as he embarrassed Canada with his and his families costumes when he visited India. I remember thinking who is he listening to – certainly he can’t think this is appropriate? Perhaps he was getting advice from his Yoga Instructor?

    In my mind this new “contrite and apologetic” Justin Trudeau is simply another role. The only thing he is sorry about is that the pictures surfaced. What else don’t we know about Justin?

    In the one picture where he is dressed up as Aladdin – no one has publicly gone after the fact that he has draped himself around the woman in front of him ( other than to say that they were close friends). That behaviour was not acceptable then or now.

    At the time this picture was taken Justin was a teacher and close to 30 years old. Teaching is one of the most important professions that truly impacts the lives of young minds. What lesson was he teaching them?

    To blame his “shallow, white privileged up-bringing” is an insult to any other white person who found themselves living in the same circumstances, who would never think of behaving in such a manner. Morality and good taste come from within and those around you. Who was Justin emulating? I find it hard to believe it came from his father?

    We tend to forget that before becoming a politician his resume indicated that he had been a bouncer in a nightclub, an actor, and a teacher in a private school. Are these the necessary criteria for a good leader – or did he win on the fact that his last name was TRUDEAU and the electorate wanted “change at cost”.

    There is a saying ” be careful what you wish for”

  • Stephen White

    No…the PM isn’t a racist, but he has, once again, displayed an uncommonly high degree of immaturity and hypocrisy, not to mention an incredible lack of judgement and common sense. I thought after the trip to India he had plumbed the depths of silliness, but the PM once again manages to sully his government’s reputation with even more sophomoric nonsense.

    First, who dresses up in black-face anymore? I’m in my sixties, and never have I seen anyone do this, not even for Halloween, a costume party, or as party of a university orientation. This is an abhorent, outdated practice that went out of fashion decades ago. It was in decline even when Al Jolson was an entertainer in the 1930’s, and it died because the public considered it tasteless, racist and offensive.

    Second, he didn’t just do it once. He did it at least four times, most recently in the early 1990’s and when he was nearly thirty. One could maybe excuse a child or an adolescent behaving like this but an adult?

    Third, when he last did it he was a teacher in a private school in B.C., a school with a high proportion of children from mult-racial, multi-cultural backgrounds. As a teacher he was in a position of trust. Did he not once consider the negative impact and effect that this would have on his students? If this behaviour had been anyone else they would have been disciplined, suspended or even terminated.

    For the past few years Canadians have had to endure Justin’s sanctimonious, self-righteous proselytizing about employment equity, multi-culturalism, etc., etc. He raked Andrew Scheer over the coals for remarks made by the Conservative candidate in Brampton when that individiual was in law school. He castigated Jagmeet Singh for remarks made by an NDP candidate out west. And he disqualified one of his own candidates in Quebec from running for apparently offensive comments made on social media. But he engages in this behaviour that is both puerile and highly offensive and we’re all supposed to give him a hall pass.

    The man is a shameless hypocrite! When will the Liberal rank-and-file membership finally stand up and demand some accountability?

  • gfraser

    My Opinion,

    I would like to believe that JT is just a hypocrite especially as the root of the word is Greek meaning ‘ Stage Actor’ which is very aprapro. But to be a hypocrite you have to possess some rudimentary intelligence and common sense.

    Let us forget all his unfulfilled 2015 political election promises.
    Let us forget our current debt & deficit and the non-balanced budget of 2019.
    Let us forget his two breaches of the Ethic commission.
    Let us forget his cabinet’s transparency speech and their individual right to vote with their conscience.
    Let us forget his verbal flaunting of the word ‘Femminist’ or his costumed Bally dancing.

    What really galls me is a true lack of an apology. Within his attempt to placate the masses, he has repeated stated that fault indirectly belongs to his ‘white privilege’ upbringing. Seriously!! Most would affiliate a ‘privileged’ upbringing to being more worldly, intelligent, sympathetic to those less fortunate than yourself, etc.

    Clearly being ‘privileged’ does not mean the above to JT. He wishes you to believe that he was naively raised and does not understand the nuances of he world that he has extensively travelled in.

    I truthfully do NOT believe that he is a racist, he just lacks common sense and worse, he lacks intelligence. His handlers put him into power knowing that his name, age, good looks and hairstyle would appeal to certain voting demographics. They were correct.

    If the Liberals wish to win this election, then this Trudeau embarrassment should step down and Liberals should replace JT with an individual(s) who has shown integrity, intelligence, compassion and communication skills. Currently they are both running as Independents and Canada would benefit from their leadership.


    PS: Ray, your title; ‘That’ll Teach Him for Browning Around’ once again makes me shake my white privileged head in disgust.

  • Phillip Wooster

    I hear many Liberals quickly forgiving him for what they see as a minor “faux pas”. Trudeau is totally clueless or lying when during his apology act he stated, he didn’t realize that what he was doing was wrong! REALLY???? In 1993, Ted Danson was in blackface during a roast of Whoopi Goldberg; he was roundly criticized for what was described as a racist act; in 1995, I was in London’s West End for opening of the musical, Jolson, and had to cross a picket line of protesters. The lead, Brian Conley, was made-up in blackface as he recreated several of Al Jolson’s performances. There were also protests on Broadway. Again, the protests were over racism. In 2001, at 29 years of age, Trudeau had to be aware.

    As a teacher, at a time when student populations were growing with many new Canadians, Trudeau, as a teacher, should have been sensitive to those students–he wasn’t.

    Is Trudeau racist? I don’t believe so but I do think he fails to exercise good judgement and oozes hypocrisy. We should not forget that he never mentionned any of these events to the Liberal vetting committee. When I add into this embarrassment to Canada, the lies, the broken promises, the incompetence, and the ethics violations, I certainly will note vote for him.

  • James

    I for one do not believe Trudeau is a racist. He is simply the poster child of white privilege, shockingly under-exposed growing up in his upper crust private schools to the multi-cultural world he now claims to promote if no part of him questioned whether what he was doing was appropriate. And again when he did it the second time. And again when he did it the third time. And perhaps yet again when he did it other times we don’t yet know about. Yes we’ve all made mistakes, but in his case, especially growing up the son of a political leader, he should have known better. His train wreck visit to India where he dressed in costume makes so much more sense now than it did before. He’s an actor, playing a part. He doesn’t understand what he’s doing, but he’s eager to jump to the front of the stage and put on a show. This latest revelation will have no impact on my decision not to vote for him though. He had proven to be an utter embarrassment to Canada long before this latest news. I am ashamed to have him as my Prime Minister, and look forward to October 21st when we can finally bring this cringe-fest to an end. To the Liberal supporters so quick to jump to his defense and forgive him, and before you start throwing the “hypocrite” word around, would you still feel so forgiving had it been Andrew Scheer in the news for this same reason? I think not.