Jagmeet Singh is the first non-white leader of a major Canadian political party. (file photo)

Island NDP discuss push back against Singh’s ethnic background

Island NDP discuss push back against leader’s ethnic background

Is Canada ready to support its first non-white party leader?

It’s a question that dominated much of the conversation Tuesday when former New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen met with residents and Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke NDP incumbent Randall Garrison, at the Stick in the Mud Coffee House in Sooke.

Cullen is completing a Building a Healthier Future tour where he’s touted his belief that only the NDP will stop Conservative Leader Andrew Sheer from forming the next federal government.

The conversation soon turned from political alliances to race as Cullen acknowledged that his party has faced challenges after embracing Jagmeet Singh as its leader in 2017.

RELATED: Federal election coverage

“When we picture a national leader it’s someone who looks like you and me,” said Cullen, gesturing at his own face.

“A lot of people expect a male, white guy of a certain age and background. Yet the country isn’t a 60-year-old straight white guy and its disturbing that some people haven’t realized it yet.”

It’s a reality that’s been demonstrated several times since Singh became party leader.

Singh in recent months was forced to abandon press conferences when belligerent protesters interrupted the proceedings. On another occasion, a woman accused Singh of supporting Sharia law.

Sharia Law is an Islamic religious tradition and Singh is Sikh.

Cullen said many of these concerns could have been addressed if Singh had the opportunity to enter the House of Commons earlier.

“At first, he wasn’t allowed into the House because there were no byelections, and they (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) wouldn’t call a byelection,” Cullen said.

“It had an impact since it makes a huge difference when you actually hear him (Singh) instead of hearing people talk about him.”

Cullen said that after Singh won a byelection in late February, the NDP was left with a short window of opportunity to let people know who their leader was and what he stood for.

“Now, the more I hear him and see him in action, the more and more I’m impressed with him,” said Randall Garrison, the NDP incumbent for the Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke electoral district, who was also present for Tuesday’s informal gathering.

“I watched the leader’s debate, and I was so impressed. You had the Liberals and Conservatives bickering and there was Jagmeet, off on the side, saying, ‘OK, how does this help solve the price of medication, or housing, or the opioid crisis?’”

Cullen also said the rhetoric of some other politicians does little to advance the debate about race and diversity.

“The Bloc (Québécois) leader told voters in Quebec to only support candidates that ‘looked like them.’ Then (People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime) Bernier repeated it,” Cullen said.

“These aren’t just racial dog whistles, they are outright whistles. It’s important that we watch for that and stand up against it.”

ALSO READ: More on election

Cullen’s comments were met with agreement from the Sooke residents in the group.

Johanna Sholton said she’d come to listen to what Cullen had to say and agreed with his assessment of Singh’s performance as the NDP leader.

At one point in the discussion, she said that it’s too bad that we even have to talk about (Singh’s) ethnicity, but it’s something we have to face and educate people about.



mailto:tim.collins@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Randall Garrison (left) engages Nathan Cullen in a discussion about the upcoming federal election. (Tim Collins / Sooke News Mirror)

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Victoria man dies after skydiving incident in Nanoose Bay

34-year-old had made more than 1,000 jumps

Additional $1.26M means big improvements coming for Parksville Community Park

Project includes construction of new outdoor stage and multi-use gathering space

COVID-19: Classical concerts series season cancelled for 2020-21

Group says scholarship program will continue

PQBeat: Ed Mayne talks COVID-19, potential pool for Parksville

Mayor returns to ‘PQB News’ studios to detail summer plans

Police issue warning after baby comes across suspected drugs in Kamloops park

The 11-month-old girl’s mother posted photos on social media showing a small plastic bag containing a purple substance

Collision results in train derailment just east of Golden

The derailment occurred Sunday night, according to a statement from CP

B.C. records 31 new cases, six deaths over three days due to COVID-19

There are 166 active cases in B.C., 16 people in hospital

B.C. highway widening job reduced, costs still up $61 million

Union-only project scales back work to widen Trans-Canada

Greater Victoria nanny pleads guilty to child porn, sexual interference charges

Johnathon Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to slew of sex crimes

UPDATE: Missing Langford teens found safe

Pair were headed to Lake Cowichan/Youbou area, last heard from in North Cowichan

Greater Victoria nanny pleads guilty to child porn, sexual interference charges

Johnathon Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to slew of sex crimes

Most Read