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Canadian PM Trudeau cannot say how often he wore blackface

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the media Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press/AP

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is wary of being definitive about how many times he has worn brown or blackface because he did not recall the recent pictures that have surfaced.

Mr Trudeau’s election campaign is trying to contain a growing furore after a yearbook photo surfaced of him in brownface at a 2001 costume party and two other similar incidents came to light.

Canada’s Global News television network broadcast a brief video of Trudeau in blackface while raising his hands in the air and sticking out his tongue. The network said it it is not clear when and where it was taken.

Time magazine on Wednesday published a photo of the then 29-year-old Mr Trudeau wearing a turban and robe, with dark makeup on his hands, face and neck.

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It was taken at a school’s Arabian Nights themed dinner.

He also acknowledged performing a blackface version of Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat Song (Day-O) during a talent show.

The prime minister at first did not answer repeated questions about how many times he wore blackface or brownface.

He later said he did not recall the pictures.

With his bid for re-election just a month away, the 47-year-old Mr Trudeau begged Canadians to forgive him.

He said he has hurt people who thought he was an ally and it is something he deeply regrets and should not have done.

Mr Trudeau said it does not represent the person or leader he has become.

He added that he never talked about it publicly because he was embarrassed.

It could all spell more trouble for Mr Trudeau, who polls say is facing a serious challenge on October 21 from Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

“What Canadians saw this evening was someone with a complete lack of judgement and integrity and someone who is not fit to govern this country,” Mr Scheer said.

Mr Trudeau champions diversity, multiculturalism and immigration and has been admired by liberals around the world for his policies in the Trump era, with Canada accepting more refugees than the US. His government has also strongly advocated free trade and has legalised cannabis.

Justin Trudeau addresses reporters on his campaign plane Credit: Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press/AP

But the 47-year-old son of late prime minister Pierre Trudeau was already vulnerable following one of the biggest scandals in Canadian political history, which arose when Mr Trudeau’s former attorney general said he improperly pressured her to halt the prosecution of a company in Quebec.

Mr Trudeau has said he was standing up for jobs, but the scandal rocked the government and led to resignations and a drop in his ratings earlier this year.

His quick apology did not stem the criticism from political opponents.

Jagmeet Singh Credit: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press/AP

“I am deeply troubled by what this means to Canada. Young kids are not just going to see just one or two but multiple images of the prime minister mocking their lived reality,” said New Democrat Party leader Jagmeet Singh, who is a Sikh.

“This is so hurtful to so many Canadians.”