Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau fought on Friday to move beyond the blackface political controversy that sparked global headlines and scrutiny on the U.S. comedy circuit.
Mr. Trudeau, who was in Toronto on Friday to announce that a re-elected Liberal government would ban assault weapons, said he would be apologizing directly to NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh along with other visible-minority Canadians who were hurt by his actions.
“I apologize deeply to them,” Mr. Trudeau said.
While speaking in Essex, Ont., on the party’s pitch for pharmacare, Mr. Singh − the country’s first visible-minority leader of a federal political party − said that he would be willing to speak with Mr. Trudeau, stressing the need for the discussion to remain private.
The Liberals said on Friday that both parties are working to set up a phone call with their leaders.
Mr. Trudeau is keen to shift attention back to his campaign for a second mandate.
On Thursday, he apologized for the second time in less than 24 hours after a video surfaced of him wearing blackface in the 1990s. Photos from two incidents in the 1980s and in 2001 were released on Wednesday.
Mr. Trudeau said on Friday that the video, first shared by Global News, was shot on a “costume day” held for river guides when he worked for a whitewater-rafting operation, sometime between 1992 and 1994.
Former interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said in an interview on Friday that the blackface controversy poses a “real test” for Mr. Trudeau, adding that he was both angered and bewildered when he first learned of it.
“Let me put it this way, this isn’t just a bump in the road in my opinion,” he said.
“I don’t consider it to be a bump in the road but I also don’t think he’s hit the wall. I think he’s got the ability to recover."
Mr. Trudeau will have a lot of supporters who will want him to succeed, Mr. Rae said, adding that he is one of those people but he believes lessons must be drawn from this.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he was “surprised” to learn that Mr. Trudeau wore blackface and brownface.
In his first public comments on the matter, Mr. Trump weighed in while fielding questions from reporters during an Oval Office meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“I was more surprised when I saw the number of times,” the President said. “I’ve always had a good relationship with Justin. I just don’t know what to tell you. I was surprised by it.”
Mr. Trump has a history of racism and bigotry, including regularly portraying Latino asylum seekers as violent criminals; saying there were “very fine people” amid a mob of white supremacists at a Charlottesville, Va., riot that left an anti-racism protester dead; and telling four congresswomen of colour to “go back” to other countries. He has not apologized for these incidents.
In Toronto on Friday, Mr. Trudeau was met with mixed reaction.
A woman named Nicole Edgar came running down the street to tell him she forgave him for his past actions and give him a hug.
“If people held me accountable for what I did 20 years ago, it would be hard. I’m sorry that’s happening to you," she said. “I’m brown. It’s okay. I forgive you.”
A few minutes later, as Mr. Trudeau stopped to takes selfies with people on the street, a man yelled, “Hey, where’s your blackface, man?” before entering a storefront.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said on Friday that Canadians might have been more willing to forgive Mr. Trudeau had he been forthcoming when he was first given the opportunity to respond to the blackface controversy when it broke on Wednesday.
Mr. Scheer was in Saint John to announce that if his party is elected it would invest $1.5-billion to replace and purchase new MRI and CT scan machines.
“I think people are very concerned about the hypocrisy – the fact there is one set of rules for Justin Trudeau and one set of rules for everyone else," he said.
With a report from Adrian Morrow in Washington