A liberal politician in Halifax is tearfully fighting charges of racism after he appeared in a photo he tweeted of himself sitting on the lap of the traditional character of Black Pete made up in black face.
Joachim Stroink tweeted the picture of himself and his wife at a Dutch Christmas event Sunday in Halifax, which he said he has attended for several years to mark the start of the holiday season. After receiving some criticism, he deleted the photo from his Twitter account and apologized Monday for any offence he caused.
â€œI do acknowledge that that whole blackface culture, there is no place for that in Nova Scotia, nor in our (Dutch) culture as well,â€ he said at a news conference.
â€œThere was no malicious intent whatsoever. This is a Dutch tradition that I grew up with and never ever in my deepest heart, ever thought that this would be portrayed in this manner.â€
The issue of the tradition of Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, has been hotly contested this year as even UN observers have called for an end to the rabidly popular Christmas tradition of the Netherlands. While a small group from within the Netherlands was famously supported by the UN the vast majority of citizens there wave the whole thing off as much ado about nothing.
Stroink (Halifax Chebucto) was on the verge of tears as he discussed how difficult it has been to deal with the reaction to the photo and why he got into politics.
â€œItâ€™s been incredibly hard,â€ he said. â€œI didnâ€™t sign up for this. I did this because I wanted to better Nova Scotia.â€