Blackface is nothing new in Canada, and McGill University professor Charmaine Nelson does not feel the prime minister is alone in having pictures of him with his skin altered for a costume.

"It's very unfortunate, but minstrelsy is a part of Canadian history just as transatlantic slavery is a part of Canadian history something that we often deny in the nation," said Nelson. "Sadly, there are probably many more photos of many Euro-Canadians in their basements, in those photo albums that are hidden."

Minstrelsy arrived as a popular form of entertainment, Nelson explained, the moment slavery began to decline. She said, the population needs to understand why white people continue to paint their faces black for entertainment years after slavery was abolished.

"We really need to think about that," she said. "Most people don't understand what it is, so they don't understand why it's so offensive to black people… All of it was about nostalgia that slavery had ended. All about, 'oh isn't it sad that slavery had ended.'"

She said people of colour continue to see themselves misrepresented or cultural appropriated, and more Canadians need to be aware of this.

"I'm disappointed, but not surprised," said Nelson. "One thing that happens every Halloween is that we have an incident of blackface on a university campus or college campus in Canada. The idea that blackface minstrelsy disappeared is a total fabrication. It didn't."