Ahead of debate in Montreal, Singh talks discrimination and Bill 21
MONTREAL -- NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said ahead of Wednesday's debate that he's confident Quebecers share his party's values, as he released a series of French-language ads seeking to reassure voters who could be reluctant to vote for a leader who wears a conspicuous religious symbol.
The four short ads, released ahead of a French-language leaders' debate, seek to contrast an NDP position with that of an adversary.
Each begins with the phrase, "Turban or no turban," before explaining why the NDP is more deserving of a vote than the Bloc Quebecois, the Liberals, the Conservatives or the Greens.
"Turban or no turban, the NDP has the most complete, ambitious and coherent environmental plan," says one ad, which goes on to criticize the Liberals' decision to purchase a pipeline. Other ads accuse the Conservatives of planning service cuts, the Greens of being unclear on abortion and the Bloc for "not wanting to work with anyone."
Identity issues are a recurrent part of the political discourse in Quebec, which has recently passed a secularism law banning some state employees, including teachers and police officers, from wearing religious symbols at work.
Singh, a practising Sikh who wears a turban, told reporters in Montreal Wednesday morning that he preferred to be open with Quebecers.
"The fact I have a turban is clear, I have a turban," he said. "But I'm someone who loves the French language, someone who understands the importance of identity, who will fight for you."
During Wednesday's pre-debate appearance at a farmers' market, Singh encountered a man who suggested he "cut his turban off" in order to "look like a Canadian."
"I think Canadians look like all sorts of people," Singh replied. "That's the beauty of Canada."
Singh later told reporters he, like many Canadians, has faced racism and systemic discrimination in communities all across Canada, but he was confident in being able to move beyond the prejudice to highlight common values.
Wednesday's debate will be an important moment for Singh as he attempts to hold on to 14 seats in Quebec, which recent polls suggest are all in danger.
In a morning photo op, Singh chatted with shoppers as he and his wife, Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu, filled a reusable bag with fruit, baguettes and cheese from the Atwater market --ostensibly to fuel his team during the hours of debate prep to follow.
Speaking to reporters, Singh again addressed the issue of Quebec's controversial secularism bill, saying his presence in the province as a turbaned Sikh was an argument against the law.
He also said it was important not to have political interference in the existing court challenge.
Singh also addressed the recent apology by Quebec Premier Francois Legault to Inuit and First Nations communities in that province, saying concrete action was needed to end discrimination.
"(Legault) said we have to go beyond apologies and towards concrete action, and I so agree with that," Singh said.
The apology was the first of 142 calls to action laid out by the Viens commission, which concluded that the province's Indigenous communities suffered systemic discrimination.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau also held a photo-op as he did some boxing training at a gym in Montreal.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 2, 2019.