Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau told a crowd gathered in Winnipeg’s Old Market Square Thursday afternoon “layers of privilege” prevented him from seeing that wearing brownface and blackface on three separate occasions was not right.

Trudeau told the crowd he’s “deeply sorry” and “it’s just not right.”

Asked by CTV’s Glen McGregor when he told his campaign team about the existence of the images he responded by saying he was “embarrassed” and that “I didn’t want to talk about it with anyone because I’m not that person anymore.

“When we found out TIME Magazine was looking for a picture of that event I told my staff,” Trudeau told the crowd. 

A report from TIME Magazine Wednesday included an image of the first of three instances of Trudeau wearing brownface or blackface makeup that surfaced in a single day.

Winnipeg’s mayor reacts

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said he was disappointed when he saw the videos, but acknowledged Trudeau’s apology.

“I also wanted to recognize that he’s been a strong supporter of our reconciliation work,” he said.

“We’ve been the beneficiary of new Canadians moving to Winnipeg as a result of his position on immigration and he’s been a strong supporter of our effort to really build Winnipeg into an internationally recognized leader for the protection and promotion of human rights.”

He said if Trudeau is re-elected as prime minister he’ll be there to support the efforts that they are aligned on.

Not buying the explanation

University of Manitoba sociology professor Lori Wilkinson said she doesn’t buy Trudeau’s explanation.

“The fact that it’s not a third video also kind of makes it difficult for him to make the argument he didn’t know or didn’t realize that it was wrong,” she said.

Wilkinson said Trudeau’s behaviour shows evidence of the institutional racism that exists in Canada.

“Those are pretty seriously racist things to do and I think without an understanding or a willingness to tackle the institutions that maintain racism, he’s just doing the same thing that everyone else is doing,” she said.

Wanting to move forward

One person who forgives Trudeau is Liberal candidate for Winnipeg Centre Robert Falcon-Ouellette.

“Obviously we need to find a way of moving forward and, you know, I’m happy he apologized,” he said.

-With files from CTV's Kayla Rosen