I want to offer up two recent quotes from or about federal NDP Leader and Burnaby South MP Jagmeet Singh.
The first is from Singh himself reacting to reporters’ questions about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau facing death threats and disruptions while on the campaign trail.
"No one should have to cancel their events where we have students, we have young people, we have volunteers, we have organizers, no one should have to cancel an event because they're worried about a danger to the safety of people coming out to a political event," he said during a campaign stop in Sudbury, Ont. "That should never have happened. And that's wrong."
Singh is, of course, correct and what’s been happening to Trudeau has been terrible. Singh, once again, shows leadership in speaking out about this. (Conservative leader Erin O’Toole made similar remarks.)
But when are some of the leaders going to speak up about what Singh faces every single day on the campaign trail?
For this, I refer you to a second quote, from John Chidley-Hill, a reporter with the Canadian Press.
“This is my second day in a week following around NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh,” Chidley-Hill tweeted recently. “(On) both days, people driving by have shouted racist remarks at him. I wish I could say I’m surprised but I’m not. I am, however, disgusted. Forget what you may think of his politics, no one should face that.”
The hateful rhetoric against Trudeau should definitely be called out, but let’s please also call out the daily racism that Singh has faced on the campaign trail – and throughout his entire life.
This racism was well documented in Singh’s book Love & Courage, a searing memoir that is a devastating indictment of racism in Canada, as well as an inspiring discussion of forgiveness.
If we just focus on the racism that Singh has faced since become the federal NDP leader, let’s go back to February 2019 when Singh was running in the Burnaby South byelection.
Singh took part in an all-candidates meeting that included a People’s Party of Canada candidate. When the issue of refugees came up, some PPC supporters in the crowd starting yelling about "terrorists" – they were also loudly muttering racist comments directed at Singh.
I’ve spoken to a few people who were there at the meeting and they say it was an ugly scene in which most of the hate was directed at Singh.
Then, in September 2020, Singh was harassed and threatened by a white man while walking down a street in Ottawa. Just check out this horrifying video,
Jagmeet Singh was followed down Wellington Street today by that guy who tried to do a "citizen's arrest" on a Radio-Canada journalist. "Want me to arrest you?" he asks the NDP leader.— Luke LeBrun (@_llebrun) September 25, 2020
The video ends with him telling Singh: "Next time I see you, we're gonna have a dance." pic.twitter.com/43wCY28o6x
I don’t recall the other party leaders rallying to speak out about the terrible racism that Singh faces every day. I get that the nooses and threats toward Trudeau are heinous, but I still don’t think it’s on par with what Singh goes through.
I keep seeing the odd person tweet or post on Facebook that “this isn’t Canada” when it absolutely is (and always has been).
So let’s acknowledge the systemic racism in Canada and put in some real work to address it. We can start by actually talking about the fact that people are racially attacking the leader of a major Canadian party, instead of putting all the focus on Trudeau.
I look forward to the angry letters in response.
Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.