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"Where were you when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saved the world by donning an obnoxiously racist costume?"  That's what our children, and children's children, will no doubt be asking in the decades to come.

To be sure, nobody will be able to definitively answer that question since the PM apparently made such a regular habit of dressing up in blackface that his courtiers just came to accept it as something he just did.  But as with any Canadian Heritage Moment… moment, historical accuracy, or any kind of accuracy, isn't what's important here.  If it were, we would remember Dr. Wilder Penfield, and not the "I smell burnt toast!" lady.

Just as Trudeau's media defenders want us to focus on Trudeau's record with respect to race relations like that's something to sneeze at instead of obsessing over more obnoxiously racist costume photos than it should be possible for one person to even have, we should be focusing on the overall impact of this scandal, beyond how it landed Canada's rep in the toilet.  Again.

(Hey, does anyone remember when this election was supposed to be about facts and truth in newsvertising?  Me neither.)

History will no doubt record that #TrudeauBlackface will be the turning point in the long war against populism.  The moment where centrists around the world decided that the way to prevent racism from spreading was to do obnoxious racism themselves!  Appeal to, and win over, racist voters by speaking directly to their concerns in an empathic way.  Classic triangulation!

In this horse race election which will be decided in a few key battleground ridings (which we know nothing about because our intrepid journalists are more interested in following Scheer and Trudeau around like lemmings), it is critical that the Liberals pull every single vote, and that 4% of votes that would otherwise go to Maxime Bernier could make all the difference.

More than anything, the #TrudeauBlackface strategy will strengthen national unity by reassuring Quebeckers concerned about the loss of their culture that they can just go steal someone else's.  Not only that, but it provides a solution to the thorny problem posed by Bill 21: if a teacher wants to wear a turban in a Quebec school, all they have to do is say it's part of an Aladdin costume.

In the vote-rich 905 suburbs of the Greater Toronto Area, some journalists went out of their way to find a few Canadians of colour who didn't think the PM dressing up like Mr. Popo from Dragon Ball Z was that big of a deal, and a Liberal-friendly pollster put out a survey that all but exonerated Trudeau.  Meanwhile, influential pundits like Ed The Sock called the whole thing a distraction, said he liked Trudeau better now that he lost his halo, and thanked Canadians who might be miffed about Trudeau singing Day-O with a sock stuffed down the front of his pants for "choosing Canada."  This is what is called "creating a false consensus", and is there anything more Canadian?

But most importantly, the #TrudeauBlackface strategy relies on Intellectual Dark Web wannabes to rush to Trudeau's defence, calling on conservatives to resist the temptation to "cuckoo cancel culture" even when no conservatives are calling for Trudeau to be cancelled.  When Ben Shapiro comes out to say that Trudeau shouldn't lose his "PM spot" because he wore blackface, you know that populism's time is up.  Wait, wasn't Ben Shapiro guilty of a Canadian hate crime?  Exactly why we shouldn't cancel people because the Liberal Party of Canada might need them to get re-elected someday!

Was this what Drake, that poet laureate of the Canadian streets, meant when he braggadociously boasted that he "could turn your boy into the man"?  That in order to defeat what you most hate, you must become what you most hate?  Maybe that's why Drake ended up at the centre of his own blackface scandal.  And maybe that's the lesson that Canada will teach the world that like Trudeau, we cannot be concerned with accuracy, or living up to the standards we set for others, or even with distinctions between black or white, if we are to choose forward.

Photo Credit: The Guardian

Written by Josh Lieblein

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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At a Burnaby, British Columbia townhall hosted by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh last week, one of the questions from a local radio reporter in attendance stood out.

"As the only racialized federal party leader," she asked, "do you think that you've been dragged into this blackface debacle?"

"Yeah, I have," he said frankly.  "Sure, it puts a lot of pressure on me because I feel like I have to represent a lot of people who feel like that was really hurtful…. I feel the weight of having to represent a lot of people but I feel like there's so many people going through so much they need someone to stand up for them."

Singh said he's always fought back against those who have targeted, but recognizes others haven't been able to, so he understands the importance of using his voice on issues where he can speak from a place other party leaders can't.

It was a thoughtful and gracious answer to a question ultimately rooted in the notion that Singh is being forced to field questions as the brown leader rather than the NDP leader.

This is obviously happening, but I'm hesitant to say it's a bad thing.  When Justin Trudeau's penchant for blackface was revealed, there's a reason people were more interested in Jagmeet Singh's perspective than Andrew Scheer's.  In an age where we're being told to listen to those with lived experiences, it's far more sensible to hear what the guy in the race with brown skin who wears a turban thinks about Justin Trudeau dressing up as a brown-skinned man wearing a turban.

This doesn't mean we should keep Singh confined to a box from which he can only sound off on race issues, but it does mean he has an opportunity to address these issues as they arise in a way others can't.  If he chooses to, we should listen.

Whether or not Singh wants to be an ambassador for Sikhs or people of colour more broadly, there's no denying he's doing it with a great deal of class, even in the face of bigotry.

A notable example of this came as Singh walked around Montreal's Atwater Market on Wednesday ahead of the French TVA debate.

After a pleasant greeting and handshake, the man leans into Singh  no doubt aware of the swam of media cameras around him but perhaps thinking he was avoiding the microphones and says, "You should cut your turban off and you'll look like a Canadian."

Unfazed and without skipping a beat, Singh patted him on the arm and said with a smile, "Oh, I think Canadians look like all sorts of people.  That's the beauty of Canada."

"In Rome, you do what the Romans do," the man doubled down.

"Hey, but this is Canada, you can do whatever you like," Singh replied.

After the 20-second interaction, the man even shouted out that he hopes Singh wins, to which the NDP leader replied with a thank you.

It's fitting that this interaction takes place in Quebec, which, right now is playing home to a maelstrom of debate over this fundamental question of whether symbols and religious garb like hijabs or turbans have a place within Quebec society.  Bill 21, which prohibits such symbols from being worn by some civil servants  most notably teachers  says it isn't.

Fearing the political power of Quebec, party leaders like Singh and Trudeau who would send in the military to any other province that passed such legislation have been remarkably reticent to offer anything more than a superficial condemnation, while affirming they wouldn't intervene in the matter.

Singh's position has been that he's fighting against the legislation by simply wearing a turban and campaigning in Quebec thereby normalizing people like him.  While it's certainly a noble endeavour, it's hard to square with Singh's affirmation that he's standing up for people who can't defend themselves.

Quebec's Bill 21 is fundamentally at odds with religious liberty, and on those grounds alone should be opposed even by people who aren't fans of face coverings on the streets.

There's a lot to learn from Singh's live-and-let-live summation of the Canadian experience: "This is Canada; you can do whatever you like."

Such a proclamation warms the cockles of my libertarian heart, as someone who feels the less time we spend obsessing over the practices of others, provided they don't infringe on anyone else's rights, the better.

This may not be the Quebec way, but it should be.  And it should be the Canadian way.

Photo Credit: CBC News

Andrew Lawton is a fellow at the True North Initiative and a Loonie Politics columnist.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.