Jagmeet Singh aims to be Canada’s first minority Prime Minister

World Today

Canada’s federal elections take place Monday, October 21. Among the challengers to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, one candidate stands out — but not because of his policies.

CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg explains.

Jagmeet Singh is the leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada. He’s also the first Canadian of Asian origin running for Prime Minister. As the federal leader of a major, political party, Jagmeet Singh is breaking barriers.

“Jagmeet has proven… if you have good ideas, if you have a kind of a mindset, then it doesn’t matter what kind of look you have, you can prove yourself at any level. This is a milestone for Canadian history, this is a milestone for Sikh immigrants, this is a milestone for minorities in this country,” Guljar Singh, a Sikh spiritual counselor, said.

Born just outside of Toronto to Punjabi immigrants, Singh is a practicing Sikh whose family often prayed at this temple.

“I have teenager kids. They are telling us: Papa, look at where our grandparents came from and where we are going to, and where Jagmeet is taking us. I think definitely every generation – even the small little kids – I think we all feel really, really proud,” Real estate broker Sandip Singh Sangha said.

But there are challenges. In June, Quebec’s provincial government passed a polarizing bill banning religious dress in public sector jobs. That includes the traditional Sikh turban. Campaigning in Montreal earlier this month, when a voter told Singh to cut off his turban so he’ll look Canadian, Singh responded: “Oh, I think Canadians look like all sorts of people. That’s the beauty of Canada.”

Moments like these have propelled Singh into a de facto spokesman for Canada’s rapidly growing visible minorities.

Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – one of Singh’s political opponents – admitted he’d worn “brownface” at a party years ago. And “blackface” on other occasions. During a leaders’ debate, Singh said he accepted the prime minister’s apology.

And he also offered an emotional response, reflecting what he said was his own experience fighting racism: “I want you to know that you might feel like giving up on Canada, you might feel like giving up on yourselves. I want you to know that you have value, you have worth, and you are loved,” Singh said.

Jagmeet Singh national’s presence has elevated the question: will Canada one day, soon, have a person of color as Prime Minister. A question not lost on this country’s largest minority group – Canadians of Chinese origin.”

Canada’s had an ethnically Chinese Governor-General, and Lieutenant Governors- all essentially representatives of the English Queen. Chinese-Canadians serve in local and provincial governments. And in parliament. MP Michael Chong – whose father was born in Hong Kong – recently ran, unsuccessfully, to lead the Conservative Party. Had he won, Chong would have shared this debate stage with Singh.