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I met Mr. Singh a couple of years ago when he was visiting Taiwan with a contingent of Ontario MPPs (Members of Provincial Parliament). I was very impressed with him then, and it seems I'm not the only one. From the Globe & Mail this month:
A criminal defence lawyer who is proficient in French, Punjabi and Urdu, with a taste for expensive suits and hipster bikes, Singh is a bit of a heartthrob; more important, he has that ineffable and invaluable ability to connect with voters, a quality that he shares with the Prime Minister.
“There’s been, for a period of time, people really encouraging me to consider this, encouraging me to take the next step,” said Mr. Singh, speaking of a potential run at the leadership. “I started off just listening. And I got to the point where I thought, let me seriously hear people out and seriously consider it.”
Though stronger on sentiment than substance in his policy pronouncements, Mr. Singh is viewed within the party as someone who would hew to the centre-left line forged by Mr. Layton and Thomas Mulcair, both of whom were determined to make the NDP a party of government.
Jagmeet Singh looks the way you hope a progressive politician would. Recently, BuzzFeed anointed him the “most stylish politician in Canada by like a million kilometers.” He’s the first turban-wearing Sikh to sit in Queen’s Park; he commutes to work by bike, often featured on his Instagram (35k followers). When I meet him in his office, PartyNextDoor is blaring from his Bluetooth speakers.
At 38-years-old, the criminal defense lawyer turned politician is a rising star in Canada, currently serving as Deputy Leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party. But why should you care about a guy that represents a suburban district outside of Toronto? Because rumor has it that Singh will soon make the jump into federal politics and run for leadership of the left-wing New Democratic Party of Canada, ready to take on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party government.
Both identify as progressives, but unlike the Prime Minister, Singh supports policies such as electoral reform and the repeal of Canada’s Anti Terrorism Act, Bill C-51. And while he’s just as happy to grab a selfie with you as Trudeau, Singh understands that the real power of social media isn’t showing off his custom-designed suits (though those look sharp as hell), but as a vital tool for communicating with his constituents—the youth, in particular.
While I despised Indira Gandhi (and Blue Star was a little heavy handed), I find this a little disturbing in Singh`s background, especially if he has higher ambitions. India, after all, is an important trading partner.
And when I hear activist group and Sikh mentioned in the same sentence, I usually think of people that advocate a separate homeland. In any case, his comments about separatism and defending a criminal are troubling.
NDP justice critic, Jagmeet Singh, stood up in the Ontario legislature and suggested Ontario use its trade relations as a bargaining chip to save the backup suicide bomber. In his speech, the NDP Justice critic failed to tell his colleagues the man he was promoting was a convicted terrorist who had a hand in assassinating the equivalent of the Ontario Premier.
I asked MPP Jagmeet Singh whether he considered Rajoana a terrorist, and why he didn’t mention this fact in his speech. He refused to answer my question. I asked him if he supported the Khalistan movement and got no answer. His assistant e-mailed me that Jagmeet Singh would respond to my questions only if I guaranteed to show him this column before it went to press. She also wanted an assurance that Singh’s response would appear verbatim in the Sun in its entirety.
Singh provided pro bono consulting to an activist group that protested the visit to Canada of Kamal Nath, the Indian trade minister who had persecuted Sikhs and had allegedly led armed mobs during the 1984 Delhi pogrom.