‘I felt betrayed’: North-Okanagan Shuswap NDP candidate responds to Trudeau brownface photo

Harwinder Sandhu dismisses comments that there are bigger issues to focus on

Controversial images of Canada’s prime minister as a younger man in brownface and blackface have struck a nerve with North Okanagan-Shuswap candidate Harwinder Sandhu.

“It does hurt – I’m still in shock actually,” Sandhu told the Observer on Thursday after images surfaced showing a 29-year-old Trudeau wearing brownface at a 2001 “Arabian Nights” themed party, and of Trudeau in blackface makeup in his high school talent show.

“It was a dumb thing to do,” Trudeau said during an emergency news conference on the Liberal campaign plane before taking off for Winnipeg.

“I’m disappointed in myself, I’m pissed off at myself for having done it. I wish I hadn’t done it, but I did it, and I apologize for it.”

Cindy Derkaz, the Liberal candidate for the North Okanagan-Shuswap, said she is disappointed by the photos, but accepts the prime minister’s apology.

“It is sincere and heartfelt. I hope that Canadians feel the same way,”’ said Derkaz in an email to the Observer. “Since 2014, when I was first nominated as a candidate for the Federal Liberals, I have come to know Justin Trudeau personally. He is one of the most inclusive people I know: he ‘walks the talk.’”

Read more: Yearbook photo surfaces of Trudeau wearing ‘brownface’ costume in 2001

Read more: ‘Troubling, insulting’: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh reacts to Trudeau’s brownface photo

Sandhu first read the news about the controversial photos on Wednesday, Sept. 18, after she arrived home from work.

“First I was shocked,” Sandhu said.

“I felt betrayed because regardless of my political belief – I used to believe Trudeau is much more accepting compared to previous leaders we’ve had.”

After immigrating from India to Canada in 2001, Sandhu was widowed at an early age. She moved to Vernon to be with her kids and has since remarried and raised her family.

Aside from her candidacy for the North Okanagan-Shuswap NDP, Sandhu is a registered nurse and works with organizations like the BC Nurses Union to advocate for health care workers and patients.

Read more: ‘I shouldn’t have done it,’ Trudeau says of brownface photo

Read more: Trudeau election plane damaged in Victoria after media bus drives under wing

While she has tried to give Trudeau the benefit of the doubt, ultimately it is the years of racism she has experienced that has helped her come to terms with the news.

“Speaking for myself, you develop a thick skin,” Sandhu said.

“That’s what I try to teach my daughters – don’t take it personal.”

After reading the comments below articles about the controversy, she is devastated to see people writing to say there are other problems that politicians should be focused on.

“When people say there are bigger issues, I believe this is the biggest issue,” Sandhu said.

“We need to work together, we cannot do this without everybody’s help and we cannot shove this issue under the carpet.”

Derkaz said Trudeau’s actions as prime minister speak to his leadership on inclusivity.

“One only needs to look at the diversity of Liberal government and the party’s candidates to see his leadership on inclusion,” said Derkaz. “I support Justin Trudeau’s leadership and am running hard to be the first woman this riding sends to Ottawa.”

Read more: Trudeau promises added incentives for first-time home buyers

Read more: As three leaders prepare to debate, Trudeau accused of ducking record


@CameronJHT
Cameron.thomson@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Justin Trudeau, now the prime minister of Canada, appears in dark makeup on his face, neck and hands at a 2001 ‘Arabian Nights’-themed party at the West Point Grey Academy, the private school where he taught. (Photo - TIME magazine)

Just Posted

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

Racist incidents on the rise in the Okanagan as coronovirus spreads

UBCO professor not surprised by recent incidents

Kin Race Track timelines outlined in Vernon council

Council could see the finalized plans by summer 2021

Coldstream council asked to put a lid on it

Lavington Community Association asks council for $50K to put roof over community rink

Sweet 16 for Vernon Panthers

Led by three seniors, Lady Cats qualify for 16-team B.C. finals for 16th straight year

VIDEO: Feds warned agricultural sector near ‘tipping point’ due to blockades

Canadian Federation of Agriculture points to lack of propane and feed due to Coastal GasLink dispute

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Two B.C. men plead guilty to bus-terminal assault of man with autism in Ontario

Parmvir Chahil and Jaspaul Uppal due to be sentenced in June for aggravated assault

B.C. Liberals call for assistance on soaring strata insurance rates

NDP’s Carole James says problem is across the country

‘Intemperate, insulting’: B.C. teacher reprimanded for online comments about religion

John William Yetman made the comments in response to a Facebook invitation to Open Mosque Day B.C.

Most Read