Cornwall mayor accepts Trudeau’s blackface apology, feels it’s ‘genuine’

Cornwall Mayor Berndette Clement. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – The mayor of Cornwall says she accepts Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s apology over his past wearing of blackface and brownface.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Bernadette Clement says she was initially disappointed after an image of Trudeau was published by Time magazine of him wearing blackface at an Arabian Nights themed party at a B.C. private school where he was a teacher in 2001. Two more instances of black and brownface were also made public.

Clement says she’s been thinking about the issue a lot over the past week and has had a lot of people asking her about it.

“It’s always hard to see those images. I’ve seen those images crop up in the U.S. context. I have an understanding of that history (blackface) and also some experience as a person of colour but I’m also a person with some privilege too. I think that even within the community of brown and black people we have different reactions,” Clement told CNW.

Clement shared the stage with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau to unveil the party’s platform in 2015. She was also moderator of the leadership debates. The mayor, who is also the first person of colour to lead the City of Cornwall, also ran locally for the federal Liberals.

“I know the prime minister. I’m met him many times prior to my running as a (federal) candidate. He also called me to congratulate me when I became the first black, female mayor in Ontario. So I’ve had many conversations with him so I know that he is not a racist. But to see those images is, of course, disappointing especially from the perspective of knowing that kids are going to be seeing that,” Clement said.

“I certainly accept his apology and I found that to be genuine,” the mayor said.

Clement said the interesting thing is the number of conversations that have hatched from the scandal and that she feels those talks are very “Canadian and very respectful and I’m glad that we’re having it.”

The mayor added that she may have “the advantage” of knowing Trudeau personally that she can accept his apology. “I have the advantage of knowing him and feeling that this apology is genuine and appreciating the fact that we’re having a very good conversation and a very timely conversation about what it means to be a person of colour in this country historically and today.”

Asked whether Trudeau will be able get away from the scandal before the Oct. 21 Election Day, Clement said that will be up to Canadians.

“I really am touched and moved by the fact that many people are asking me and want to engage with me in particular around how I feel about this. As to what happens in the election, that’s up to Canadians.”

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