As a visible minority, Singh’s NDP leadership win highlights a positive change in our country
Following the announcement of his NDP leadership win on Oct. 1, Jagmeet Singh said, “Canadians must stand united and champion a politics of courage to fight the politics of fear […] a politics of love to fight the growing politics of division,” reported CTV News.
Leading with 53 per cent of the ballot vote, Singh is the first person from a visible minority to be elected to lead a federal party in Canada, according to CTV News. In the aftermath of the election, many Canadians are asking what this historic moment could mean for the future of Canada’s identity.
According to an article from The Globe and Mail, at least 70 per cent of Canadians believe having a person of colour in a position of leadership at a national level is a good thing for Canada. Nonetheless, when the Angus Reid Institute surveyed 1,477 Canadians between Oct. 2 and 4, the results showed that 31 per cent would not vote for a Sikh man who wears a turban and carries a ceremonial kirpan knife—as Singh does.
Despite this statistic, it is an improvement compared to the results of a previous poll about Singh conducted in June. As a result of these improved statistics, there is growing belief that public acceptance of openly religious Sikh men has increased since Singh’s election victory, according to the same article by The Globe and Mail. Coupled with his young age, 38, making him the youngest leader the NDP has ever had, Singh’s success to date is nothing short of a breakthrough. Even though he still faces criticism from some because of his faith, Singh is diligent and dedicated to his work.
According to CBC News, Singh constantly faced criticism while growing up and was often bullied for being different. His childhood experiences in a society where minority groups are often looked down upon was a motivation for him. Singh dedicated himself to fighting for those who, like him, were and are still harassed for being different.
According to CBC News, one of Singh’s primary objectives is to show Canadians that he is more progressive and willing to go further than the Liberals. He has discussed his intentions to fight social oppression, denounce stereotypes about Sikh men and help eliminate racial profiling. In an interview with CBC News in May 2015, Singh claimed he had been a victim of racial profiling by Toronto police at least 10 times. He was later involved in pushing a motion to ban random police checks in Ontario that was implemented by the provincial government in 2016, according to CBC News.
Singh’s rise to power has shattered social barriers preventing the progressive evolution of Canada’s political identity. His acceptance by the NDP party and its supporters, as well as the growing support from his fellow Canadians, demonstrates a substantial step forward for Canada. Regardless of race and cultural background, Singh is making progress not just for himself, but for others who have been marginalized by society. He is opening the eyes of Canadians and working himself to the bone every day to renew and reconcile the relationship between Canadians with diverse backgrounds. If he, a member of a visible minority, can be accepted by Canadians of various cultures and faiths, then it speaks volumes for our progress as a multicultural nation.
And it does not stop here. Singh has only begun to change what it means to identify as Canadian. As his party’s new leader, Singh is beginning his campaign to reclaim the NDP’s title as the country’s most progressive party. As he explained in an interview with The Globe and Mail, Singh wants to transform the NDP into “the party that inspires, that truly touches the hearts of the people. We have to inspire because we have to win—we owe it to Canadians to do so.”
In a first step on his way to perhaps becoming prime minister, Singh is now touring the country to gain support from suburban ridings, which could potentially result in a significant shift of support for Singh and his party. Considering his current progress, I believe it’s highly likely Singh may once again defy the country’s expectations. Certainly he will continue to redefine what it means to be Canadian.
Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth