Jagmeet Singh and his idealism find their moment

Election Image of the Day: Justin Trudeau’s ‘brownface’ debacle turned all eyes on the NDP leader. Without question, he rose to the occasion.

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Singh pauses as he comments on photos of Justin Trudeau in brownface (Adrian Wyld/CP)

Late on Wednesday night, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh expressed what millions of Canadians were feeling: pure disappointment in Justin Trudeau. The wretched irony of a privileged 29-year-old son of a prime minister—a teacher, no less, at one of Canada’s most prestigious private schools—dressing up in brownface is so obviously, indefensibly wrong that even Trudeau apologists are shaking their heads. The PM’s penchant for playing dress-up (“I’ve always—and you’ll know this—been more enthusiastic about costumes than is sometimes appropriate”) will be thoroughly scrutinized in the coming weeks. But for now, Singh—the highest-profile visible minority politician in Canada, maybe ever—gave a compelling and impassioned speech addressing kids of colour. “You might feel like giving up on Canada, you might feel like giving up on yourselves,” he said, choking up a little. “I want you to know that you have value, you have worth and you are loved.” Given the overwhelming number of white-faced pundits and journalists analyzing this issue, Singh’s voice should outweigh other critics’. Politically, too, it was wise to avoid calling for Trudeau’s resignation; this was a moment for Singh to do what he does best and connect directly with voters through the bridge-building optimism that is foundational to NDP idealism. The coldly political takeaway is not just Trudeau’s hypocrisy, but how this will affect the election; fact is, this is bad for Trudeau and—whether or not the NDP leader is trying to capitalize—very good for Jagmeet Singh.