Man in photo with Trudeau not offended by costume; says ‘it’s not a big thing”

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SURREY, B.C. — A man who was photographed with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in brownface said he doesn’t view the costume he was wearing at a theme party in 2001 as racist.

Sunny Khurana said his two children attended West Point Grey Academy in Vancouver, where Trudeau taught, and the school had a “very high standard.”

“There was no tolerance for anyone who mistreated anyone or for any racism,” he said in an interview on Thursday at his Indian clothing store, Guru Bazaar, in Surrey, B.C. 

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Three photos have come out of Trudeau in brown- and blackface.

The first photo from the theme party in 2001 of Trudeau dressed as Aladdin — his face and hands coloured with makeup — was published Wednesday night by Time magazine. The photo was in the academy’s yearbook.

Another image from the same event was in a school newsletter and it shows Khurana and his brother-in-law flanking Trudeau.

“It was a fun event,” Khurana said, adding that he was “not at all” offended when he saw Trudeau in brownface.

“He was like one of those actors in Aladdin. In fact, I think, if he didn’t colour (his face) it wouldn’t even look like the character,” he said.

“I think, personally, it’s not a big thing.”

A third photo has also emerged showing a younger Trudeau when he was a student in blackface singing Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song (Day O).”

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Khurana said Trudeau has taken the appropriate response since the photos came out.

“The thing is, he came out right away and apologized. End of story.”

West Point Grey Academy released a statement Thursday saying those at the school “appreciate the concerns that have been raised, as they align with our own values and commitment to inclusion and equality.”

“Our 2001 gala event was organized by a culturally diverse group of parent volunteers and was intended to be celebratory and respectful,” the school said. 

“That said, we recognize cultural sensitivities have evolved over the past 18 years. At West Point Grey Academy, we strive to provide school programming, activities and events that are progressive and inclusive.”

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2019.

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press

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