‘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

RCMP seek suspect in armed robbery at Salmon Arm gas station

Police believe suspect entered store prior to covering face with mask

Sandbagging continues for flood-prone areas around Shuswap, Mara lakes

Shuswap Emergency Program closely monitoring water levels

B.C. Hockey League prepping for 2020-21

League reviewing different scenarios and start times in compliance with provincial regulations

Shuswap caregiver a hero in husband’s eyes

Night and day shifts leave little time for Tracy and Rick Duncan

City of Enderby issues flood caution reminder

Rain in Sunday weather forecast could increase water levels and flow

Vernon videographer captures thunderstorm

See the ‘best bits’ of Saturday’s storm

Dyer: I left my heart in the desert

Kristy Dyer is a columnist for Black Press Media who writes about the environment

Horoscopes for the week of June 1

Weekly horoscopes by Morgan Fava

George Floyd asphyxiated by sustained pressure: family autopsy

Death sparked a wave of protests across the U.S. and abroad

Kootnekoff: Re-opening to a new normal

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice

Golden Wine Ninjas brings positivity – and wine – to community

The group was started by Jolene Wood on May 13 and has already amassed over 500 members

Editorial: Intolerance not bound by borders or travel restrictions

Intolerance known to rear its ugly head in the Shuswap

Most Read