- Wednesday afternoon the entire world, and I say that literally, was shocked when a report from Time Magazine was released early in the afternoon. The headline read: "Justin Trudeau Wore Brownface at 2001 ‘Arabian Nights’ Party While He Taught at a Private School".
- Yes, that's right. Canada's self proclaimed feminist and champion of diversity prime minister, wore makeup at a school party to appear to look more Arabic. His picture was taken at an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala. It shows Trudeau, then the 29-year-old son of the late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, wearing a turban and robes with his face, neck and hands completely darkened. The photograph appears in the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private day school where Trudeau was a teacher. The accompanying picture shows him to look much darker than usual Arabs, however.
- The yearbook from the 2000/2001 school year at West Point Grey Academy shows several people, some of whom are still on staff at the school, dressed up for the gala—however only Trudeau appears to have darkened his skin.
- Trudeau held a hasty press conference on an airplane soon after the story broke, whilst he is traveling around the country on the election campaign. To not even wait for the plane to land shows that the Liberals knew it needed to be addressed right away. Trudeau apologized for the photo: “I shouldn’t have done that,” he said. “I should have known better but I didn’t and I’m really sorry.”
- Trudeau said he now recognizes that wearing brownface was racist, though he didn’t think so at the time. He said he was taking responsibility and vowed to continue campaigning.
- “I’m going to be asking Canadians to forgive me for what I did. I shouldn’t have done that. I take responsibility for it. It was a dumb thing to do,” he said, adding that he was “pissed off” with himself.
- But this wasn't the only incident of Trudeau in racist makeup! Trudeau also admitted to wearing blackface makeup and an afro wig in high school for a talent show to sing the Jamaican folk song "Day O", famously performed by African-American singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte.
- During the press conference, Trudeau was asked if this was the only incident. He told reporters that he had performed the song Day-O during a high school talent competition “with makeup on. I have always acknowledged that I come from a place of privilege but now I need to acknowledge that this comes with a massive blind spot.”
- However, despite only naming the high school talent show incident, a third instance emerged Thursday—this one a grainy video showing Trudeau in blackface, raising his hands in the air. On Thursday, Zita Astravas, the media relations lead of the Liberal Party of Canada, confirmed that the video showed Trudeau from the early 1990s. It comes despite Trudeau being asked at his press conference whether there were any other incidents he wanted to own up to, and only mentioning the talent show. So we have to wonder if those 3 were the only times Trudeau donned racist garb.
- Then he was asked about the video, which shows him wearing blackface and an Afro wig, waving his arms and sticking out his tongue. The previous day he said that he did not remember it because he led a privileged life that came “with a massive blind spot.”
- But on Friday, he said that video was recorded during a dress-up day for river guides between 1992 and 1994, when he was working at a white-water rafting company. And he again apologized for his behavior.
- “I know there are Canadians, many, many Canadians, that I have deeply hurt with the choices I made,” Mr. Trudeau said in Toronto. “I am going to work very hard to demonstrate that as an individual I will continue to stand against intolerance and racism.”
- Trudeau's actions were met with swift condemnation from both Conservative opposition leader Andrew Scheer as well as NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party leader Elizabeth May.
- “Any time we hear examples of brownface or blackface… it’s making a mockery of someone for what they live and what their lived experiences are,” Singh told reporters.
- On Thursday, Singh said the incidents pointed to a “pattern of behaviour” by Trudeau.
- “I have to really point out what we’re seeing now is an ongoing pattern of behaviour that’s really going to hurt Canadians,” he said. “They’re going to see the prime minister mocking the realities that so many Canadians live with. And it is not a joke.”
- Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said she was “deeply shocked by the racism shown” in the photograph of Trudeau: “He must apologize for the harm done and commit to learning and appreciating the requirement to model social justice leadership at all levels of government,” she said in a statement. “In this matter he has failed.”
- Speaking from a campaign event in New Brunswick Friday morning, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer repeated his belief that Trudeau’s apology is insincere.
- “I believe Canadians would have been able to accept his apology had he been open and transparent the first time, if he hadn’t lied when he was first given the opportunity to address it. I think people are very concerned about the hypocrisy.”
- And that's the root of the matter. I don't believe that many people out there actually believe that Justin Trudeau in 2019 is a racist. That's not the issue. The issue, is that he's a hypocrite. And now the world sees that. He's been met with swift condemnation from international media. It's definitively proven that the Trudeau lovefest in international circles is over.
- Trudeau has previously garnered regular international media attention in the Canadian and global press for his choice of attire. In 2018, he was mocked for the elaborate Indian garb that he, his wife and their three children wore during a visit to India.
- Trudeau's blackface antics have garnered huge criticism in the international media, and became the top story in almost every country in the world. In America, where blackface is seen as hugely racist due to a problematic history of slavery, Trudeau was met with shock and dismay. Even President Donald Trump expressed shock upon hearing of Trudeau's blackface: “I was hoping I wouldn’t be asked that question,” Trump said when asked for his reaction to Trudeau in blackface. “I’m surprised. And I was more surprised when I saw the number of times. I don’t know what to tell you.” I think we're all surprised by the number of times.
- As Tucker Carlson, the Fox News commentator, said on Thursday night, the prime minister’s conduct is “sort of like finding out your super-sensitive brother-in-law, the one who tells you he’s a feminist, the one who’s always scolding you for your sexism is, in fact, hitting on the babysitter.”
- As Conrad Black writes: "This propensity for absurd costumes, from Superman and Lawrence of Arabia to the Afro wig and features, and the dreadful fiasco in India where he inflicted subterraneanly silly costumes on his entire family, is affected and worrisome. He was a drama teacher and his father liked exotic costumes and foreign lands, but poncing through India in traditional outfits would be like the prime minister of France and his family coming to Canada dressed like Jacques Cartier in frilly shirts and voluminous breeches, buckled shoes and three-cornered felt hats."
- And as Piers Morgan of the Daily Mail writes: "Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada and arguably the most woke, virtue-signalling and PC-crazed leader in the history of Mankind – or ‘Peoplekind’ as he insisted we rename it last year - turns out to have a rather cracked halo? Wow. I’m so shocked…not. I’ve not met a high-horse rider yet who doesn’t eventually tumble off into a pit of shameless hypocrisy. But I’ve got to hand it to Trudeau, when he fell, he really FELL. For a guy so keen to paint himself as the male Mother Teresa, the revelation that he has literally painted himself to appropriate non-white skin color is a bombshell from which I doubt he will ever recover."
- Janaya Khan from CNN has what might be the most scathing response: "For Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, blackface is a mere obstacle to overcome in his campaign run after receiving rebukes this week for darkening his face several times in the past. But for the millions of black, Indigenous and other people of color in Canada, this is far more than a simple scandal. Blackface is a reminder that people of color are still considered to be 'characters' instead of equal and full human beings. To put on blackface is to be contemptuous of other people's pain. To take on the appearance of one's skin, but none of the suffering endured as a result of racism, makes a mockery of our experiences. It demeans who we are as people. And the infuriating reality is that Canada's denial of its own racism, the very same racism present in the overwhelmingly white, elite and privileged spheres where Trudeau apparently learned that blackface was acceptable, makes it impossible to change in any meaningful way."
- Liberal candidates across the country had varying reactions to Justin Trudeau’s multiple incidents of blackface – but are all standing behind him as leader. The Globe and Mail reached out to dozens of Liberal candidates on Thursday, in the wake of revelations that the Liberal Leader has appeared in blackface multiple times. Some Liberal candidates running in the October 21 election said they were disappointed and disturbed by the images, some viewed it as an opportunity to learn about racism, and others said it wasn’t a big deal. But no one called for Trudeau to step aside.
- Trudeau has tried to quickly change the channel from his blackface controversy back to policy, which we will also be covering on this show. Canadian media had followed along, despite social and international media still blowing up over the images. The fact that so many of our Canadian media companies tried to move along and change the channel on such a story is absolutely reprehensible.
The News Rundown
- A new Conservative government lead by Andrew Scheer would bring in a tax cut on the lowest federal income bracket.
- That bracket is for runs from nothing up to $47,630 per year.
- The current rate for that bracket is 15% and this cut would lower it to 13.75%.
- A person making $47,000 a year would save $426 / year while a two income couple each earning the same would save $850 / year.
- As income goes up taxpayers will get to keep more of their own money.
- Now this is branded as a “universal tax cut” because everyone who pays income tax pays at this tax bracket or higher.
- The Liberal party’s “middle class tax cut” that cut taxes for those making between $45,282 and $90,563 was cut from 22% to 20.5%.
- Comparatively with the Liberal plan, true benefits didn’t start to be seen until a person would bring home more than $60,000/year.
- The cut will be phased in starting with a reduction to 14.5% on Jan 1, 2021, then 14% on Jan 1, 2022, and then 13.75% on Jan 1, 2023.
- The Parliamentary Budget Officer says the tax cut will cost the treasury $5.9B and economist Trevor Tombe using Statistics Canada data came up with roughly $5.5b in terms of cost.
- CBC called the Conservatives policy announcement “mostly true” and highlighted that the tax cut isn’t “universal” since not everyone pays income tax.
- In fact, 1/3 of tax filers do not pay income tax.
- The CBC cites the Harper GST cut as universal tax cuts when the GST was lowered from 7% to 5%.
- In a recent poll taken by Ipsos it was found that the most popular issues are health care (administered by provinces, but federally funded in part), affordability and the cost of living, and climate change were the top 3 election issues. They came in at 35%, 27%, and 25% respectively.
- The economy was right behind climate change at 24%.
- Upwards of $425/year from this tax cut and more from the repeal of the carbon tax with its associated price increases addresses the cost of living issue quite nicely.
- This is why the Conservatives rolled it out first and why we’re covering it here on the podcast.
- The Conservatives have also pledged to restore both the child sports and fitness tax credit as well as the arts and learning tax credit that were removed by the Trudeau government.
- At the core all Canadians will benefit but families and those with children will benefit most.
- Meanwhile the NDP wants to increase the capital gains tax inclusion rate from 50% to 75% meaning more capital gains tax if you make a profit.
- They also want to create a super wealth tax of 1% on wealth exceeding $20m including luxury items like real estate and investment portfolios.
- The Canadian Taxpayers Federation said that the Conservative plan will deliver “broad-based tax relief”
- Here at Western Context we prefer direct tax measures such as a cut to the GST, or the institution of a flat rate income tax, or the addition of income splitting for all who are married.
- Income splitting refers to the process of one spouse transferring some income to another so that on the whole less income tax will be paid due to lower rates made available.
- Many times before we've talked about increasing urbanization in Canada, and how now more than ever there is a hugely increased urban/rural divide. Oftentimes, this divide can manifest starkly in the differences in the most basic of quality of life improvements between a major city and a small town not that far away.
- This next BC story is about a small town on Vancouver Island called Bamfield. It sits on a picturesque part of the coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean. If you look up what an idyllic Pacific Northwest fishing village would look like, a picture of Bamfield would be a textbook answer. Bamfield is not just a fishing town however. It is also home to about 200 permanent year round residents, though with numerous people with summer homes, and tourists transforming the sleepy village into a bustling town in the summer, the population can easily swell to about 1500-2000 during the warmer months.
- It's also home to Bamfield Marine Sciences Center, a marine research institution formed in 1972. The centre was originally the site of the Pacific Cable Board Cable Station, which served as the eastern terminus of the trans-pacific telegraph cable from 1901 to 1959, providing a vital telecommunications link between North America and islands in the Pacific. BMSC partners with many western Canadian universities in order to provide a permanent base for marine and coastal-oriented field operations on the west coast of Canada. Many students flock here from UVIC, UBC and other campuses to study marine biology, and other science programs.
- To get to Bamfield from Victoria is a bit of a drive, but still doable in 4-5 hours. You can either drive up the 4 hours up to Port Alberni, and then take a gravel logging road for 1-2 hours from there the rest of the way to Bamfield. Alternatively if you're feeling more adventurous and want to save a bit of time, you could drive 1hr to Lake Cowichan, and then have another 3 hours on a similar gravel logging road.
- In the past several years, the local Huu-ay-aht First Nations have purchased a number of businesses in Bamfield, including a motel, café, market, pub, fishing lodge, and a tour operator. They have also improved infrastructure, working with the BC government to open a new water treatment station, lifting a 5 year advisory on the town. They've also partnered with a local telecoms company to improve internet infrastructure, bringing reliable internet to the area.
- At this point, you're probably wondering why all this matters. Well, for years communities in the area have been clamouring for government help to improve road conditions. Local governments of Port Alberni, Lake Cowichan, and Bamfield, as well as the local First Nations band Huu-ay-aht have all been loudly petitioning both the BC NDP and BC Liberals over the past 30 years for a paved road to Bamfield. With many other aspects of Bamfield life transitioning into the modern era, transportation still remains in the 1900s.
- The road was the topic of a 2008 report by B.C.’s forest safety watchdog Roger Harris, who noted “Bamfield is no longer a logging town.”
- Many of Harris’s 17 recommendations were adopted. His key recommendation, however, was to redesignate resource logging-type roads — such as Bamfield Main — that have outgrown their original intent and have become multi-purpose primary and secondary roads connecting communities, typically First Nations, to public highways.
- Frequent rain in the area can turn what appears to be well maintained logging roads into a transportation hell filled with washboard gravel and potholes galore that can have you cursing your car's inadequate suspension. Even in the summer when it's dry can be hazardous; dust can get kicked up on the road so much from traffic that visibility can be reduced, and in the heat air quality can be drastically reduced. At least four people have been killed in crashes on the route since 1994, according to local news reports. In 2010, a group of Alberta high school students was stranded overnight when their bus ran into trouble, and a lack of cell reception and remote area meant they couldn't get help until someone happened upon them the next morning.
- Having been on both sets of roads many times over the past decade, I can personally attest that with increased traffic and decreased logging in the area the roads have gotten much worse over the years, and it was only a matter of time before another tragic accident happened.
- Unfortunately, last weekend we had such a tragic occurrence. A Wilson’s Transportation coach bus carrying 45 University of Victoria students bound for BMSC, two teaching assistants and the driver went off the gravel logging road and slid down an embankment between Port Alberni and Bamfield last Friday.
- 17 people were hurt, including the driver, and two students were killed. Emma Machado of Winnipeg and John Geerdes, an American student from Iowa, both 18 years old, were pronounced dead at the scene. Three people were flown to Victoria General Hospital and more than a dozen others were injured. Because of the remote area, it took several hours for assistance to reach the victims of the crash.
- UVic student Sarah Hunter is haunted by the bus crash she crawled out of on Friday night, but of all the sights and sounds, the most painful came from the two people in front of her, who talked so eagerly about destinations that they’ll now never see.
- Hunter says that the now deceased Emma Machado and John Geerdes talked “pretty loudly and excitedly” about university life and their trip to Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre that night, said Hunter, 19. But the two first-year University of Victoria students never made it to the teaching facility on an optional field trip.
- It’s in their memory that Hunter started a petition to pressure the B.C. government, specifically Transportation Minister Claire Trevena, to upgrade the Bamfield Main gravel logging road that has morphed into a highway used by residents, tourists, commercial vehicles and buses transporting students.
- Hunter said the petition “is all for them, to have their lives taken from them before they got to start, to die in the pursuit of something they were so passionate for, to not even get there, it’s completely unfair. I want to do this so they didn’t die in vain, so no other students die in vain, that their lives can save others.”
- The petition had over 12,000 signatures at time of recording.
- There was a lot wrong that night in Hunter’s mind — including the departure time, the mode of transportation and the weather conditions. Mostly, however, it was the narrow gravel road itself with no barriers, poor sightlines, little if any signage, and no lighting. The darkness, rain and fog exacerbated an already risky situation, she said.
- Students were instructed the bus would depart on time, at 3 p.m., so that it would reach Bamfield before dark, Hunter said. Instead, the bus left at about 3:20 p.m. It was delayed again, to pick up a late student, departing about 4:45 p.m. in rush-hour traffic, said Hunter. At 7:10 p.m., the bus pulled into McDonald’s in Port Alberni for dinner. The bus headed down a bumpy Bamfield Main after about 7:40 p.m., she said.
- On Monday, RCMP said the cause of the crash remains under investigation and said alcohol has been ruled out as a contributing factor. People living on the Island don't need an investigation to know what probably happened. A big bus hit a bad stretch of road near a turn, and with another car coming from the other direction, the bus had to move closer to the shoulder, which was soft from the rains we've had recently. And in the rain and dark, the bus accidentally slid off the road, tumbling down a steep embankment.
- Just before the crash, the bus was travelling at a slow speed on a bend, Hunter said. She believes the bus was pulling over to the right of the gravel road for an oncoming vehicle when she felt a bumping, as if the bus tires hit the shoulder.
- “You could just feel the bus teetering back and forth and the tires sliding in the mud and slipping slowly until the point of no return and we just slammed down to the ground,” Hunter said. “There was the sound of screaming, and metal on ground, and crushing sounds, and the glass breaking.”
- The window she had earlier been resting her head on popped out, shattered, and was soon under the bus as it slid down the embankment.
- The bus came to be cradled by three birch trees — “three giant birch trees that we all owe our lives to because there would have been so many more fatalities if we kept rolling even one more time, two more times down the entire hill into the river,” Hunter said.
- “We tried, one at a time, to make our way down the bus and out the windshield.”
- The vehicle in the oncoming lane for which the bus moved was a Jeep equipped with a steel tow cable, she said. “He throws it down the hill and everyone in good shape helps everybody else up. It’s very muddy. It’s a slippery embankment. It’s super surreal. It was like crawling out of a muddy grave.”
- Chief Councillor Robert Dennis with the local Huu-ay-aht First Nations, was one of the first to come across the crash site on Friday, and has been foremost in petitioning both NDP and Liberal governments for improved road conditions since he became a councillor 21 years ago: "We in Bamfield have known for quite some time that the safety issue on that road is one of our prime concerns. I've been knocking on [the door of] every Liberal government, every NDP government, to get our road fixed."
- Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said she's heard the concerns about the road: "Ministry officials have been looking into the issue to determine if safety improvements could be made. The situation is complex as this is a private, industrial road, operated and maintained by private companies for active forestry operations," Trevena said in a written statement.
- It's true. The logging roads are still owned by private forestry companies, who have a responsibility to maintain the roads, and get grants from the government to do so, but other than that it's up to the companies to take care of the infrastructure, which is a major problem.
- Premier John Horgan vowed Thursday to upgrade Bamfield Main logging road, where two UVic students died in a bus crash last week, but he did not say what changes would be made or when: “It’s terrible that a tragedy of two lives being lost had to focus our attention on it, but I know that we’re going to be working … to try and find a way to improve that road. Kids travel to Port Alberni on that road every day to go to school — if that’s not enough to see action, I don’t know what is,” Horgan said.
- Horgan said Transportation Minister Claire Trevena, logging companies and the Huu-ay-aht First Nations will be involved in the upgrading. He plans to meet with members of the Huu-ay-aht First Nations on Tuesday. The premier acknowledged Thursday he has been aware of problems with the road for more than two decades — even before he was elected. “I’ve been on it, several times,” Horgan said. “I’ve been to Bamfield. I know the challenges first hand. It is used by the public and we’re going to have to find a way forward.”
- In an attempt to turn the channel less than 2 days after the blackface story broke, Trudeau and the Liberals rolled out their anti-gun platform plank.
- The Liberals say they will ban semi-automatic assault rifles, allow cities to ban handguns, and initiate a buyback program for 250,000 weapons that could cost up to $600m.
- The announcement was made in Toronto a year after the Danforth shooting in July 2018. 2 were killed and 13 others were injured as a result of this attack.
- The Liberal party sources also say that the semi-automatic assault rifle ban will include the AR–15, which the party says is, “specifically designed to inflict mass human casualties and [has] no place in Canadian society.”
- Trudeau has already accused Andrew Scheer of “being in the pocket” of the gun lobby which on its own is such an American term.
- The truth of the matter is that aside from how it looks, the AR–15 isn’t much different than some hunting rifles. In fact, some hunting rifles can fire heavier shells with a higher muzzle velocity making them more dangerous.
- This ban and in particular the timing of it is an attempt to change the channel in Toronto where votes will matter the most in the election.
- Automatic assault rifles are already banned in Canada.
- Some semi-automatic rifles already fall under a restricted category (the AR–15 is in this category) meaning that if you don’t store them properly, don’t transport them properly, or possess too much ammunition, you are already committing a crime in Canada.
- We already have mandatory background checks, safety training, police screening, and people must show their license and be checked with each gun purchase.
- Among other things the newly proposed gun control Liberal platform promises to: prevent people suspected of posing a danger to themselves or others from possessing or acquiring new firearms, require that everyone importing ammunition show a valid license, strengthen storage laws, and not bring back the long gun registry.
- A license to buy ammunition is already required for buying or importing ammunition, the new law would just require that it be shown.
- Onto handguns, most of the handguns used in gang crime and crime in cities are illegal.
- We live just to the north of the most gun free country in the world.
- Most of the illegal guns used in Canada are smuggled in from the United States.
- The gun control debate in the United States sells ratings and its one of the favourite talking points of US Democrats after any mass shooting in the US.
- We talked about this back on episode 130 when there were 14 shootings in Toronto over the August long weekend.
- Put simply, the solutions that the US needs, Canada already has, we need to look at the illegal gun market and the truth that the AR–15 is used as a prop because it looks similar to a military grade weapon.
Word of the Week
Blackface - a form of theatrical make-up used predominantly by non-black performers to represent a caricature of a black person. The practice gained popularity during the 19th century and contributed to the spread of black racial stereotypes
How to Find Us
Episode Title: A Pattern of Behaviour
Teaser: Trudeau admits to at least 3 incidents of him in blackface, Andrew Scheer’s tax plan will help the working poor save more, and a tragic fatal bus crash prompts calls for rural road upgrades in BC. Also, the Liberals try to reopen the settled gun control debate.
Recorded Date: September 21, 2019
Release Date: September 22, 2019
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes