Sikh to lead Canada’s New Democrat Party

Jagmeet Singh
Jagmeet Singh


JAGMEET Singh, an Ontario provincial lawmak­er and practising Sikh, was elected on Sunday (1) as leader of Canada’s left-leaning New Demo­crats, becoming the first non-white politician to head a major Canadian political party.

The 38-year-old lawyer, whose penchant for colourful turbans and tailor-made three-piece suits made him a social media star, was elected on the first ballot to lead the New Democratic Party into the 2019 federal election against prime minis­ter Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

“Thank you, New Democrats. The run for prime minister begins now,” Singh tweeted.

Singh secured 54 per cent of the vote, defeating three rivals to become the new head of the NDP, succeeding Thomas Mulcair. The results of the vote, conducted online and by mail, were an­nounced at a party meeting in Toronto.

“Canadians must stand united to champion the politics of courage over the politics of fear, the politics of love to fight the growing politics of division,” Singh said, speaking after the results were announced.

The speech was particularly poignant in the af­termath of a suspected terrorist attack in Edmon­ton early on Sunday (1), which saw a man stab a police officer and deliberately ram pedestrians during a high-speed chase in a rented truck.

The Toronto-area politician, who led in fund­raising since joining the race last May, had been touted as someone who could bring new life to the party, which has struggled since the death of char­ismatic former leader Jack Layton in 2011.

Singh’s profile was boosted in early September after a video went viral showing him calmly re­sponding with words of love to a heckler who in­terrupted a campaign event to accuse him of wanting to impose Islamic Shariah law in Canada.

“His skill, in being able to diffuse the situation, it understandably appealed to a lot of people who ended up supporting him,” said Christopher Cochrane, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto.

Cochrane added that Singh’s ability to connect both with young people and ethnic minorities would make him a “force to reckon with” when competing against Trudeau in 2019.

Trudeau congratulated his new political rival on Twitter on Sunday, saying: “I look forward to speak­ing soon and working together for Canadians.” (Reuters, AFP)