Cloverdale-Langley City candidate attended event with blackface characters

The controversial “Black Peter” character has been a feature at Sinterklaas celebrations

The Conservative Party has confirmed Cloverdale-Langley City candidate Tamara Jansen attended and rented out her greenhouse for a local event that featured performers in blackface.

“Ms. Jansen was at the event but did not organize it,” said Daniel Schow, press secretary to Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer.

He confirmed organizers rented one of the Jansen family’s greenhouses for an event.

He noted that Jansen did not wear blackface.

“Unlike Justin Trudeau, our candidate did not dress up in blackface three times and lie about it,” Schow said.

“Blackface is racist. Anybody who has ever applied it has no place in this election or in our party,” he added.

Allegations that Jansen was involved in the event began to circulate on Twitter on Thursday morning, in the wake of the news that Prime Minister Trudeau had worn blackface or brownface several times, most recently when he dressed as Aladdin at an Arabian Nights-themed party at the Vancouver school where he was a teacher in 2001.

READ MORE: Third instance of Trudeau in skin-darkening makeup emerges

The local events were Sinterklaas celebrations, Dutch family holiday events at which St. Nicholas meets children.

The annual events have attracted a significant amount of controversy in recent years due to the Black Peter character, known as Zwarte Piet in Dutch. Black Peter is usually described as St. Nicholas’s Moorish servant, but he is traditionally portrayed by a white person in black makeup.

Photos from a Sinterklaas event website show that multiple Black Peter characters were involved in events over the last few years. By 2016 and 2017, some of the Black Peters were still in blackface, but many others were in bright orange, purple, or blue face makeup instead.

Photos from the 2018 event posted online do not show any performers in blackface.

Controversy over the events in the Lower Mainland almost a decade ago resulted in a Sinterklaas event at the New Westminster Quay being cancelled. Dutch-Canadian proponents of the event have argued it is traditional and not meant to be racist, but there has been considerable controversy over the Black Peter character in the Netherlands as well.

Subsequent events have been held in the Fraser Valley, including in Langley and Cloverdale.

Jansen is well-known locally for the GLOW Christmas and Harvest celebrations which were held at her family’s Milner Gardens greenhouses until Agricultural Land Reserve rules forced a move earlier this year.

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