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Jagmeet Singh's ejection from House opens up discussion on diversity in Canadian politics: expert

Last Updated Jun 18, 2020 at 11:22 am EDT

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh listens to a question during a news conference, Wednesday, May 13, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Jagmeet Singh's ejection from the House on Wednesday could spark further debate over diversity, race in politics: expert

Political scientist says Singh's comments about racism could be echoed by various groups across Canada

The NDP leader was booted from the House for calling a Bloc MP a racist, refusing to apologize for it

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s ejection from the House of Commons on Wednesday could spark a greater conversation about race and diversity in the highest level of Canadian politics.

That’s coming from an expert after the New Democrat was booted from the House for calling Bloc Québécois MP Alain Therrien a racist for not supporting an NDP motion to tackle systemic racism in the RCMP, and refusing to apologize for it.

“When you have this one individual, Bloc’s leader in the House, Therrien, refusing to vote for the motion, it does raise questions about racism. And I think in the heat of the moment, this is what Jagmeet Singh said,” Samir Gandesha, a political scientist at Simon Fraser University, tells NEWS 1130. “Given everything that’s been happening around the world, particularly around the world … in this country as well, it’s understandable. I think it’s an understandable response from [Singh].”

Singh stood by his comments after he was kicked out, getting visibly emotional while telling reporters he “got angry” and wondering why something couldn’t be done to “save people’s lives.”

Gandesha says Singh’s comments directed at Therrien could be echoed by various groups across Canada. He points to other times the NDP leader has spoken out against racism, notably after the Justin Trudeau blackface scandal, when Singh reflected on his own dealings with racism growing up.

“He spoke from the heart about how he, himself, had fought racists and he acknowledged that there are those new Canadians and longstanding immigrant communities in this country that have had to deal with racism and felt really hurt by this particular episode, or there were quite a number of episodes of Justin Trudeau, let’s say, not exactly being respectful of ethnic communities,” Gandesha says.

He adds Singh’s latest response is “given credibility” by how he’s dealt with racist incidents in the past.

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“The gesture of just simply dismissing the sentiment behind the motion, Jagmeet Singh really found it hard to take. And I think there are so many of us now saying, ‘enough is enough,'” Gandesha explains, adding recent protests and calls for action against systemic racism in the U.S. are bringing to light similar issues Canadians face on this side of the border. “Similar kinds of problems that we need to address head-on. And when the other side doesn’t take it seriously, it becomes extremely frustrating.”

Singh is the first person of colour to lead a federal party in Canada. As such, Gandesha says he opens up a wider discussion on diversity and race in politics — and in our world.

Gandesha says the future of political leadership likely lies with people from diverse people, young people, and members of the LGBTQ community.

“[It’s] only going to be a good thing, in terms of ushering in a new era of equality and justice,” he says.

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