Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came under fire early Thursday (September 19) after images of him donning brownface makeup surfaced. Trudeau was attending a 2001 party dressed as the character Alladin, and is now apologizing and fielding questions about the getup.
The photograph has not been previously reported. The picture was taken at an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala. It shows Trudeau, then the 29-year-old son of the late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, wearing a turban and robes with his face, neck and hands completely darkened. The photograph appears in the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private day school where Trudeau was a teacher.
Earlier this month, TIME obtained a copy of the yearbook, The View, with the photograph of Trudeau in brownface from Vancouver businessman Michael Adamson, who was part of the West Point Grey Academy community. Adamson was not at the party, which was attended by school faculty, administrators and parents of students. He said that he first saw the photograph in July and felt it should be made public.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday night, following TIME’s publication of the photo, Trudeau apologized: “I shouldn’t have done that. I should have known better and I didn’t. I’m really sorry.” When asked if he thought the photograph was racist, he said, “Yes it was. I didn’t consider it racist at the time, but now we know better.”
Trudeau has also admitted to wearing Blackface to perform in a high school talent show. The timing of these photos becoming public couldn’t be worst for the prime minister, who is in the midst of a reelection campaign that was launched last week.