A campaigning Jagmeet Singh had a public encounter today with a man in Montreal who urged the NDP leader to “cut off” his turban to “look like a Canadian.”
Singh was engaging prospective voters at Atwater Market this morning in front of media cameras and reporters when he was approached by the man.
After Singh shook his hand, the man leaned in and spoke to the NDP leader in English.
“You know what? You should cut your turban off,” he said. “You’ll look like a Canadian.”
“Oh, I think Canadians look like all sorts of people,” Singh replied. “That’s the beauty of Canada.”
“Yeah, but…” the man said — before Singh cut him off.
“That’s okay, I don’t agree, sir,” he said.
“In Rome, you do as the Romans do,” the man said.
“Hey, but this is Canada, you can do whatever you like,” Singh said, then walked away.
“All right, take care, eh?” the man called after him. “I hope you win.”
Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, Singh once again addressed the issue of Quebec’s controversial secularism bill ahead of tonight’s TVA leaders’ debate.
The four leaders invited to the debate are expected to address Quebec’s Bill 21, which would prevent public employees from wearing religious symbols — such as Singh’s turban — on the job.
“I’m hoping that by being in Quebec and saying, ‘Hey listen, I got a turban and a beard and I’m out here talking about loving the language, fighting against climate crisis, investing in people, investing in universal medication for all,’ that people can see … maybe it isn’t a good idea to have divisive laws that discriminate [against] people based on the way they look,” said Singh.
Singh, the first member of a visible minority to lead a federal party, will take the stage tonight with Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet.
Singh, who faces significant pressure to defend his party’s seats in Quebec, already has said an NDP government wouldn’t challenge Quebec’s religious symbols law in court — but he hopes his own public identity can change Quebecers’ minds about wearing religious symbols.