Canada's Trudeau apologises for dressing up in brown face, election chances could suffer

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologised on Wednesday for wearing brown face make-up in 2001 after an embarrassing picture emerged less than five weeks before an election in which he faces a tough fight.

The image of a 29-year-old Trudeau with his face in dark make-up is a major challenge for a leader who often speaks about the need to fight racial discrimination and who has three prominent ministers of Indian descent in his cabinet.

Trudeau

"I should have known better then, but I didn't and I did it and I'm deeply sorry," Trudeau, 47, told reporters on his campaign plane in Halifax, Nova Scotia, after Time magazine published the image.

Time said the image was provided by Vancouver businessman Michael Adamson earlier this month. Adamson was part of the West Point Grey Academy community where Trudeau, then 29, worked at the time, the magazine said. The picture was in the Vancouver private school's yearbook.

"I dressed up in an Aladdin costume and put make-up on. I shouldn't have done it," Trudeau said in comments carried live on Canadian television.

The picture shows him wearing a turban and a white robe, with his face covered in dark makeup.

Trudeau, questioned by reporters, also admitted he had dressed up in make-up when at high school and performed "Day O", a traditional Jamaican song about people loading bananas onto boats.

Trudeau is locked in a tight battle with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer ahead of the Oct. 21 federal election.

Scheer said he was "extremely shocked and disappointed" by the photo.

"Wearing brown face is an act of open mockery and racism. What Canadians saw this evening is someone with a complete lack of judgement and integrity and someone who's not fit to govern this country," he told reporters in Quebec.

Trudeau has seen his once sky-high popularity hurt by a series of missteps, including a ruling last month by a top watchdog that he had breached ethics rules by pressuring the former justice minister to ensure a major construction firm avoid a corruption trial.

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Justin Trudeau weds in 2005
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Justin Trudeau weds in 2005
MONTREAL, QC - MAY 28: Justin Trudeau and bride Sophie Gregoire leave the Sainte-Madeleine D'Outremont Church, Montreal, after their wedding ceremony here, May 28, 2005. The car a 1959 Mercedez 300SL, was Pierre Trudeua's car and was recently renovated and given its original silver grey colour. (Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - MAY 28: Justin Trudeau and bride Sophie Gregoire leave the Sainte-Madeleine D'Outremont Church, Montreal, after their wedding ceremony here, May 28, 2005. (Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Sophie Gregoire looks up at her new husband Justin Trudeau, son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau as he gets into his father's 1959 Mercedes 300SL following their wedding nuptials in Montreal, May 28, 2005. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi CM
Justin Trudeau, son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and his new bride Sophie Gregoire have rose petals thrown as they leave the church following their wedding, in Montreal, May 28, 2005. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi CM
Justin Trudeau, son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau kisses his new bride Sophie Gregoire following their wedding in Montreal, May 28, 2005. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi CM
Justin Trudeau, son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and his new bride Sophie Gregoire pose for photos following their wedding ceremony in Montreal, May 28, 2005. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi CM
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