By David Ljunggren
TORONTO (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, embroiled in a blackface picture scandal, on Friday pledged to ban military-style assault rifles in the country’s most ethnically diverse city in a bid to get his campaign back on issue.
Trudeau is campaigning in Toronto with less than five weeks to go before the Oct. 21 national election and two days after bombshell images of him in blackface emerged.
“Thoughts and prayers aren’t going to cut it,” Trudeau said in Toronto. “We know you do not need a military grade assault weapon, one designed to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time, to take down a deer.”
This month, a 17-year-old was killed by gunfire and five other people were wounded in a community just outside of Toronto, and two days later another person was killed in a shooting on a major highway.
The Liberal Party leader vowed on Thursday to continue his push for re-lection and asked for forgiveness. Several ministers turned up at the announcement to show their support, including Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Trudeau said the new gun rules would include a buyback program for all legally purchased assault rifles, and a Liberal government would also work with other levels of government to give municipalities the ability to further restrict or ban handguns.
In August, Toronto Mayor John Tory said a city-wide handgun ban would be enough to reduce gun violence in Canada’s biggest city. All federal parties are hoping to make political gains in and around Toronto this election.
Before the blackface images emerged two days ago, polls showed Trudeau running head-to-head with his main rival, Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer.
Trudeau’s campaign was upended when Time magazine on Wednesday published an image of the prime minister, who is known to be a strong advocate for multiculturalism, with his face blackened at a 2001 “Arabian Nights” party when he was a 29-year-old teacher at a Vancouver private school.
Other images have since emerged, and Trudeau said on Thursday he was “wary” of ruling out the existence of even more because he could not remember those that had already come to light.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren, additional reporting by Kelsey Johnson, writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by David Gregorio and Nick Zieminski)