Canada’s New Democrats Party (NDP) selected Sikh candidate, Jagmeet Singh to lead their party after a single round of voting on Sunday, according to BBC. Singh won 53.6 percent of the vote, effectively defeating the three other NDP candidates, Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton, and Guy Carson. Singh’s victory marks the first ethnic minority appointed to lead a major federal party in Canada, and the first of Sikh faith.
Typically dressed in colorful turbans and resplendent three-piece suits, Singh is not new to these types of achievements. He is the first Sikh to sit as a provincial legislator representing the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, as well as the first Sikh to serve as deputy leader of the NDP.
In his acceptance speech, he touted the idea of unity within Canada. “We know that there is a desire in Canada for new leadership,” Singh said, “to build an inclusive Canada where every one of us can make their dreams come true”. This notion was central throughout his campaign, and his inclusiveness is a staple of his political persona.
When a video went viral of Singh’s calm and resolute reaction to an angry heckler at one of his campaign rallies, his popularity saw a boost both in Canada and across the globe, says to Al Jazeera. Accusing the candidate of being in the Muslim Brotherhood, the heckler was met with two words by both Singh, and the crowd: “love and courage,” while Singh went on to gently tell the jeering protestor that “everyone in this room loves [him].”
Racism and judgment are something Singh has faced many times throughout his life. In a GQ article earlier this year, he referenced how battling racism as a child conditioned him to not only be sensitive to people who are treated unequally, but to fight for them. He went on to mention how his unique style choices play a part in disarming stereotypical associations that come with wearing a beard and turban.
CBC reports that before the party leader entered the fray of politics he worked as a criminal defense lawyer, even doing pro bono work for an activist group. During his campaign, Singh honed in on four core policy themes: climate change, electoral reform, reconciliation with indigenous peoples, and inequality.
Although the new leader of the NDP has a background in fighting inequality and legislation, he still has some work to do. He is faced with the challenge of re-thinking a strategy to regain the seats the party has lost. In the 2015 election, the NDP lost 59 seats in Canada’s Parliament, leaving them with 44 out of a total of 338 seats, and effectively putting them behind the Conservative and Liberal parties.