Jagmeet Singh, first non-white to lead major Canadian political party


Toronto: Jagmeet Singh, an Ontario provincial lawmaker and practicing Sikh, was elected on Sunday 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 colorful 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. He secured 54 per cent of the vote to become the new head of the NDP, succeeding Thomas Mulcair.
The Toronto-area politician had been touted as someone who could bring new life to the party, which has struggled since the death of charismatic 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 law.
Born in Scarborough, Ontario, to immigrant parents from Punjab, Singh grew up in St John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador and Windsor. He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Western Ontario in 2001 and a Bachelor of Laws from York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 2005. He worked as a criminal defence lawyer in the Greater Toronto Area before entering politics. Sikhs account for 1.4 per cent of Canada’s population.
Trudeau congratulated his new political rival, saying: “I look forward to speaking soon and working together for Canadians.” Singh will now focus on rallying supporters and targeting centre-left voters who helped propel Trudeau’s Liberals to a decisive victory in 2015.
Singh does not have a seat in the federal Parliament and will have to win one. He also needs to persuade voters that his party can form a government, although it has never held power federally.
There are also questions over whether he will have success in Quebec, the mainly French-speaking province, where overt signs of faith are frowned upon. — Agencies