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

 

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

Just Posted

Community connections a factor in Nanaimo-Ladysmith election results, university professors say

Political studies prof says national campaign was ‘bitter’ and ‘low-level’

Nanaimo council won’t OK Front Street bike lanes right now

Public consultation will take place before council considers approving $400,000 project

Nanaimo craft brewery’s blonde ale best in B.C.

White Sails Brewing’s Bastion Blonde Ale takes first place at B.C. Beer Awards

Huard’s Haunted House returns to terrify mid Island for another spooky season

Halloween attraction open in Cassidy every night through Oct. 31

Scheer says Canada more divided than ever, as NDP and Bloc hold cards close

While Liberals were shut out of two key prairie provinces, they took two-thirds of the seats in Ontario

Horvat’s hat trick lifts Canucks to 5-2 win over Red Wings

First career three-goal game for Vancouver captain

Runners brave wet, windy weather for Ucluelet’s 20th Edge to Edge

“The spirit of the runners I have nothing but compliments.”

Saanich Gulf-Islands’s Elizabeth May coy about leadership plans

The federal Green party leader talks possibility of running as MP without being leader

Estheticians can’t be forced to wax male genitals, B.C. tribunal rules

Langley transgender woman Jessica Yaniv was ordered to pay three salon owners $2,000 each

Two youth arrested in UBC carjacking at gunpoint, after being spotted in stolen Kia

‘A great deal of credit is due the alert person who called us,’ said North Vancouver Sgt. Peter DeVries

People’s Party of Canada’s anti-immigration views ‘didn’t resonate’ with voters: prof

Party was formed on anti-immigration, climate denying views in 2018

Windstorm knocks out power for 10,000 in north and central B.C.

Power slowly being restored, BC Hydro says

Investor alert: ‘Split games’ pyramid scheme circulating in B.C.

British Columbia Securities Commission issues warning about scheme selling virtual shares

Most Read