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After years pontificating about diversity and rejecting racism, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in blackface, as recently as his 29th year on Planet Earth, should not diminish all he has done for “diversity and inclusion” says Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.
“Did the prime minister make a mistake? Yes. And it was really important that he immediately acknowledged that,” McKenna told reporters at a Thursday morning campaign event in the capital, where she promised refurbishment of a disused, rusty train bridge for bicycle traffic across Ottawa River.
“And we all have to acknowledge that some people are hurt, including people on my team. But as Greg (Fergus) has said, look at the record of the prime minister. I would not be here if I did not believe in the prime minister and what we have done to advance diversity and inclusion.”
McKenna was joined by backbencher incumbents Will Amos (Pontiac, Que) and Greg Fergus (Hull-Aylmer, Que), the latter of whom is one of two black Liberal MPs in the caucus.
In backing the PM, Fergus said he accepted Trudeau’s apology and attempted to convey what Canada’s entire black population felt about his boss in blackface after Time Magazine broke the story Wednesday evening.
“There was a lot of hurt and confusion last night by the black community and I will say this to all of you. I don’t believe that anybody has ever lived their lives without making an error,” he said, adding that Trudeau’s accomplishments outweighed his three blackface transgressions (that we know of) before becoming Canada’s leader.
“I think the real measure of the man and I think the thing we need to be talking about, and I hope that you will be talking about, is all the amazing things we have done for diversity. This has been good for the black Canadian community across this country.”
While reporters seemed very concerned about how Fergus felt, McKenna – a member of Trudeau’s cabinet—more or less escaped the media hot seat. This is where The Post Millennial has you covered.
Asked to square the recent turn of events for her leader and the Liberal Party with her own comments—years’ worth, in fact where McKenna decries racism; that it has no place in her party or Canada—McKenna looked to Fergus for support.
“First of all, I have to give a huge shoutout to Greg. I am incredibly proud to be on this team. The prime minister recruited people to run and that includes people like Greg. I can’t speak for the black community…”
The Post Millennial: “I’m not asking you to speak for the black community, speak for yourself Minister McKenna. Take some responsibility here. Why are you deferring to Mr. Fergus?”
McKenna: “Let’s be clear, I’m not deferring to Mr. Fergus.”
TPM: “Well, it looks like it.”
McKenna: “I’m really proud to be on a team that is as diverse as our team. And did the prime minister make a mistake? Yes. And it was really important that he immediately acknowledged that. And we all have to acknowledge that some people are hurt, including people on my team. But as Greg as said, look at the record of the prime minister. I would not be here if I did not believe the PM and what we have done to advance diversity and inclusion. And I am just so proud that we have people like Greg Fergus, like Ahmed Hussen, the diversity on our team of people who care and are committed to diversity and inclusion and we’ve taken action and there’s more work to do and I think this is a really important conversation that we have. And this is a moment in time that we can all reflect, and certainly I am. But I think we have a track record, and as I say, having someone like Greg on my team just makes me incredibly proud. We run as a team. The prime minister is the leader and he recruits people, but we have really great people and what we’re trying to do is incredibly important and I believe in what we’re doing and I believe that we have a lot more work to do to foster diversity and inclusion, and that’s why I am standing right here today.”
TPM readers might recall that Hussen, the Immigration Minister, was captured on video during a Somalia Independence Day event in Toronto last July, where he accused his Conservative opponents of “dancing with white supremacists.”
And in case anyone thought this bad luck for the Liberal Party of Canada, on its road toward re-election, has given either McKenna or Fergus pause for reflection on months of demonizing their Conservative challengers with old videos or past acquaintances, don’t hold your breath.
Here is Fergus in a brief exchange with reporters about how he judged Trudeau’s blackface episodes, and how he will judge others in the future:
“I think we’ve got to ask ourselves, when did this happen? What was the person’s views. Is this a reflection, can we build a case that this is a reflection of deeply held views. Or has that person learned from that and moved on.
Reporter: “So anyone who apologizes can be forgiven, whether they are Conservative or Liberal?”
Fergus: “I would want to take a look at what the person has done in their lives. What’s the company they keep? Who do they keep with? What actions have they taken? What positions have they spoken out on? When they’ve had opportunities to act, did they? So I think those are all things that go into the mix to determine what would happen. But I’m a pretty forgiving guy.”