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Student leader who ran for Manitoba Liberals apologizes for blackface

WINNIPEG — A student leader who was a candidate for the Manitoba Liberals in last year's provincial election apologized Monday after a photograph surfaced of him wearing blackface at a Halloween party.

"What I did was completely unacceptable," David Teffaine wrote in a social media post.

"I will deeply regret, for the rest of my life, wearing this costume and misunderstanding the actions it supports. I never should have worn it."

Teffaine was removed Monday from a subcommittee of the University of Winnipeg Student Association and from the university's board of regents, said a statement from the student association.

"We were blindsided and disturbed by the photo that had surfaced and do not condone this conduct," the group said.

Teffaine, who did not reply to an interview request, posted online that the photo was taken "years ago." A Facebook account that put up the photo said it was from either 2015 or 2016, and that Teffaine was dressed up as the actor and comedian Bill Cosby.

In the picture, Teffaine has black paint on his face. He is wearing a sweater with brightly coloured patches and he's holding small containers of what appears to be pudding.

The Manitoba Liberal Party said it was unaware of the photo when Teffaine ran in last September's election. He finished a distant third in the Swan River constituency with five per cent of the vote.

"This is the first we have seen of these images," Liberal president David Engel wrote in an email. 

"The individual in question is no longer involved with the party, and has not been for months. We take these allegations extremely seriously."

Engel was unable to say how the photograph went undetected during vetting of prospective candidates.

Photos of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wearing blackface in his younger days surfaced during last fall's federal election campaign. He has profusely and repeatedly apologized for behaviour he says he didn't realize at the time was wrong, but which he now acknowledges was "a racist thing to do."

In addition to running for a legislature seat, Teffaine served as a constituency assistant for one of the Liberals' legislature members last year, says his Facebook profile. He also represented the provincial party's youth wing on a CBC television panel during the federal election in October.

Teffaine promised in his online post Monday to be a better person.

"I will always hold myself accountable for my actions and continue to educate myself."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2020


Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

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