Get real. Jagmeet Singh has been dealing with racist hecklers for months. -

Get real. Jagmeet Singh has been dealing with racist hecklers for months.

Wherever Singh goes, the odious fog of Canadian race politics—billowing out of the yawning pits of passive-aggressive antipathy—is sure to follow

(YouTube: Brampton Focus)

(YouTube: Brampton Focus)

The first time I met Jagmeet Singh in the summer of 2011, racial politics was unspoken in the conversation but present regardless. At the time, Singh and his campaign team were walking through the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, passing out t-shirts. Singh was running in Bramalea-Gore-Malton, which was one of the areas I’d lived as a child, and where some of my family members still call home. I took a t-shirt and wished him luck on his run, adding that getting elected in that riding would be light work. I think about that exchange every so often, and I’m ashamed at my comment. The subtext, of course, was that a young and handsome turban-wearing Sikh would have no problem getting elected in the same riding that made Gurbax Malhi the first such candidate in the western world to do so.

The second time I met Jagmeet Singh, racial politics were at the crux of a community consultation on carding (a fittingly polite and bureaucratic Canadian spin on racial profiling) by Toronto Police. Singh, by then an elected MPP, attended the meeting to add his voice to the chorus of community members who demanded that the practice be abolished province-wide. Not long before, Singh tweeted and spoke about his personal experiences being profiled by police in Toronto and Windsor, saying the experiences made him feel “like I just didn’t belong.”

The third time we were in the same room, at his campaign launch in Brampton, he was confronted by a man in a Panama Hat who had some bizarre questions about Sharia law. I bring all of this up because it seems that wherever Jagmeet Singh goes, the odious fog of Canadian race politics, billowing out of the yawning pits of passive-aggressive antipathy, is sure to follow. Last week, it bookended his campaign when Jennifer Bush (a woman aligned with white nationalist organization Rise Canada) accosted Singh at a campaign event, asking him “When is your Sharia going to end? We know you’re in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood.” Singh, for his part, remained poised and unflappable. Bush’s approach, though, wrapped in the gauche cloak of overt racism, brought her viral infamy and simultaneously generated widespread sympathy for Singh.

After the encounter, several publications described his response as “classy” and “gracious.” VICE tweeted the story about the encounter, stating “This is how you deal with a racist heckler.” And Andrew Coyne was, of course, Andrew Coyne, wondering why Singh didn’t logic-bomb Bush into embarrassment by stating he is not a Muslim. But Jennifer Bush, a woman who quite obviously has no political views worth taking seriously, makes for a convenient scapegoat. In Canada, racialization is at its most acceptable when it comes in the form of polite questions uttered by serious thinkers. And for several months, those serious thinkers busied themselves with this well-dressed and beturbaned curiosity.

READ: How Jagmeet Singh hopes to win over the next generation of NDP voters

There was, for example, the fretting over the complicated nature of Singh’s “Québec Problem;” the possibility that Quebec voters, who helped sweep the NDP into opposition status in the 2011 federal election, would abandon the party if Singh were chosen to lead it. There have been columns speaking of Singh’s campaign as “insurgent,” as if a politician who’s been name-checked and profiled for years by the likes of Toronto Life and GQ magazine (in a way that no Canadian politician alive, save for Justin Trudeau, could possibly relate) was overstepping his place by running for party leader. And then there was the question by Jesse Brady, co-campaign manager to NDP leadership contender Charlie Angus, as to whether Singh really managed to sign up 47,000 new NDP members.

Those questions, always posed in the innocuous voice of white curiosity with nonwhite achievement, should be familiar to anyone who followed Barack Obama’s 2008 Democratic primary campaign. The question as to whether he could be accepted by working-class white voters. The comments about his popularity being carried by his natty appearance and articulate speech, rather than his community and legislative accomplishments. The “either I won, or you cheated” narrative carried by bitter supporters of Hillary Clinton, a narrative that threatened to fracture the party itself until Hillary and Bill managed to mend party ties at the Democratic convention. Right up until Barack Obama swore the oath of office, there was the sense that something was utterly wrong here, that his candidacy upset the natural order of things, and that the country was not yet ready for him.

This is not to say that Jagmeet Singh is Obama’s Sikh analogue north of the border, but the script for racialization has always made for thin reading. There is nothing complicated about the suggestion that Quebecers are not comfortable with his “religiosity,” there’s simply the belief that white Quebecers are too racist and xenophobic to support the NDP if it elects a brown-skinned leader who will not placate their bigotry. There’s no “insurgent” campaign at work to upset the established order of the party, there’s simply a popular candidate who, by all appearances, is poised to demonstrate why Canadians of colour not only deserve a seat at the table, but can pull up a chair at its head. And whether or not Singh has indeed signed up enough members to win the leadership in the first round of balloting, his campaign has so far succeeded at a level that most party leadership candidates could only dream of.

Yet taken as a whole, the response to his campaign from the political class seems to be that Singh should hang back in Brampton until the rest of the country—a country which prides itself on not being as despicably racist as America—has evolved enough to accept him. At a time when white nationalists have crawled out of the dirt to murder people in the streets, shoot up and firebomb mosques, and taint the office of the U.S. president, this is not a good look. Regardless of the NDP convention outcome, Jagmeet Singh has, so far, made his candidacy look like light work. But the way he handled Jennifer Bush wasn’t the true demonstration of his class and grace. It’s the way he’s handled Canada’s serious thinkers, who can’t help but find polite ways to explain why he doesn’t belong.



Get real. Jagmeet Singh has been dealing with racist hecklers for months.

  1. Another divisive article published by the left wing media. Why are we feeding those who look under every rock to see if they can find something which offends them? If I wish to be, I can be offended by every person who belongs to a group which pushes Sharia law, tortures animals, treats women like slaves, illegally enters our country, goes against and demand we change our customs, and so forth.
    See how easy it is to be offended.
    How about we grow up…

    • Yes, sticking your head in the sand and pretending that offensive people don’t matter is a much better approach. Maybe if we’re really quiet and don’t answer the door, they’ll just go away …

      • Tangler. You are talking about how Canadians react to people who come from countries they want to leave then come to Canada to make it into the country they came from.

    • Divisive? It is merely a comment on the racist world we live in, the guy was very classy dealing with this clueless women and the article reflects this. People like you who don’t even have a clue will continue to bring this country down to your level unless exposed. Sharia law is not a sikh thing and that is what the real problem is… lump someone who is different in with everyone who is a person of colour as a muslim terrorist who tortures animals and treats women as slaves. Time to wake up and join the 21st century.

      • Calvin Barr. Are you trying to tell us that the Sikh religion is tolerant and peaceful? The issue is they come here to make their old life instead of showing some respect for Canadian ways, otherwise go to a Sikh country.

    • Silver Rider. At least target your comment to things that are relevant. Sikh is not Muslim and Canada is changing into hundreds of little tribes instead of the Country it was. We do not have to be tolerant of every religious practice.

      • @robertvan

        But you would have us be very tolerant of wilful cluelessness, going so far as to provide examples.

  2. Jagmeet Singh appears to be a great candidate. But “racist hecklers, is a stretch , First the author, has charges of assault against him. (why?)
    Next, the woman who “confronted” him, Singh, asked if he supported Sharia Law, note, that branded her as a racist. The author claims that the same woman is part of “Rise Canada”, apparently not true. According to this author everyone who disagrees with him and Islam is a “racist”.

    • She may well be a racist, but the more important issue is that she is woefully misinformed and does not represent Canadian values.

      Jagmeet Singh is Sikh, not Muslim, so why would he have anything to do with Sharia law or the Muslim Brotherhood? In order to bring Sharia Law into Canada we would have to start with re-writing the entire Criminal Code and likely the Constitution. I don’t see that happening by any stretch of the imagination.

      As for her behaviour, at the very least we expect Canadians to be polite.

      • Spend a little quality time and read…Tarek Fatah , he’s on Facebook, and many other places. And he is a Muslim.
        Perhaps a lot of your queries may be answered. Everyone that disagrees is probably NOT a racist.

        • You may not be a racist but you are ignorant… The guy is a Sikh not muslim… The ignorance of people is quite baffling..

  3. Please, someone, define “racism.”

    In the USA, where I live, a “racist” is someone who disagrees with the Democrat or (in US terms) liberal/progressive view on an issue.

    • Wow the ignorance of so many people is quite appalling… most liberal/progressive people are quite tolerant.. thus the are called progressive however in the divisive states of America if someone has their intolerance pointed out they blame the “left” or the liberals or the Democrats… Open your eyes and get into the 21st century.

  4. Good guy, and good on him for what he did, but he still won’t beat Trudeau in the next election, i don’t think Singh will even lay a glove on Trudeau if he wins the leadership race. First, the NDP are not a party of flash, they are a lumber shirt party, not a party of 3 piece suits, or 2 piece, when they(rank-in-file NDP) look at flash, they see Justin Trudeau, and if the NDP are rooting for flash, they should stop going after Trudeau about his vanity, because Singh looks a super vain person to me, and ‘Vanity’ is not in the NDP vocabulary. Singh has to be careful of pandering policies, like the conservatives do because the liberals have gutted any future policy the the NDP or the Cons can carve out right now, they have taken all the progressive policies the conservatives left in their wake after Harper gutted them when he stole the PC party of Canada(i don’t how Mulroney could ever forgive Chopper Pete Mackay for that ruding the PC party of Canada to ruble and ashes) ..The grits are sitting right smack dab in the middle, the sweet spot, that’s how you win governments. And don’t forget the power of character and charisma in a world where inspiration, is now in limited edition. Singh may get a lot of kudos for his message of tolerance, but he has a large mountain to climb, because one act of kindness can fade in the pack pages of a paper pretty fast, as fast as it can be on the front page. Charlie Angus is the true look of the NDP, he is the genuine article, but it(NDP)needs to figure out, if it wants to be a modern day party, of the party of the past.

    • If the NDP want to be a party of the future, chances are it will bleed a lot of support to the greens, they(Greens) wear lumber shirts and eat granola, this could be a turning point for the Green and Liz May(she is rubbing her hands), if Singh is elected as leader, to the NDP.

  5. Race is a stupid and useless concept falling under the rubric that ‘simple things amuse simple minds’. The author of this article proves the point by working at making him brown enough to classify some typically irrational bigotry as racism: can we ever stop trying to classify others based on a paint chart? It’s also gratuitous to assume that Quebecois as a whole are more racist than other Canadians – that’s another prejudice we should beat out of Anglo-Canadian thinking.
    We can also do without attempts to whitewash Canadian prejudice – it’s there: denial is not a useful response. Sure the US ‘land of the free’ is full of bigots and even racists; however, calling out someone else’s bad behavior is a childish strategy.

  6. These views are all very nice, except why would anyone immigrate from their country to come to another better one demanding they represent the life style they ran away from?
    I and my family immigrated to Canada and understood that we came here to make a new life and the least we could do was to accept Canada’s traditions and try to pay Canada back for the chance.
    I believe that if you are so proud of your old life you should go back there and make it better, don’t try to make Canada into your old country.

  7. People love to comment, but few like to research what they comment on. Trump is the ultimate misdirection guru. The issue is still why do people demand to continue the habits of countries and religions that they run away from? This man feels he needs to be Sikh in Canada, why? And does this mean he wants to represent all Sikhs only in Canada’s Parliament?

    • You guys might try separating his religion from his politics.

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  9. This article makes my blood boil. WHEN did we become so intellectually lazy that we began to equate LEGITIMATE concerns about issues such as “Sharia Law” with “racism”. “Sharia Law” is a set of “rules to live by” that is attached to the Muslim faith. They are vicious rules, whereby — just as one example, a woman who has been raped can be stoned to death. And, make no mistake, these “Sharia Law” rules ALMOST BECAME a secondary set of laws in the province of Ontario a number of years ago. Only the intervention of then Premier Dalton McGinty prevented it from going through. It is true — Mr. Singh is a Sikh, not a Muslim — but the Sikh religion also condones many practices which are harmful to women. After a lifetime of being a loyal , contributing member of the NDP, I resigned my membership this past year when I realized that the NDP is not going to deal with the simple fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is alive and well in Canada. For many , many years , I was known far and wide as a “leftie”, a “bleeding heart social democrat”. While, now — simply because I oppose the fast moving way that the (often times radical) followers of Islam are trying to change our society taking root in Canadian.
    society. Wake Up, Canada. There is such a thing as “evil” in the world, and those who would have us accept the tenets of Sharia Law in our once proud and free country are gaining power everyday. Mr. Singh voted in favor of Motion 103 — a frightening motion passed by the Parliament, which we will be hearing more about this fall. (The Conservative Party members, almost “en masse” voted against it. ) Finally : ISLAM IS NOT A RACE. Sikhism is not a race. To equate being anti-Islam with racism is just about the biggest stupidity which the 21st century has yet produced. (Please, Canadians, study this issue carefully. The Liberal government of Prime Minister Trudeau is destroying the very fabric upon which this country was built . Please don’t let it happen.)