The underdog: A profile of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

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I'm trying to winter and I'm almost law welcome to chosen family. Every second week we talk about art sexuality and identity with a special guest usually queer here but not always I completely struggled coming out to my parents as a comedian being in the entertainment industry for a Middle Eastern. People is unheard of affecting change requires requires people to shake it up listened to chosen family wherever you get your podcast. What sign are you by the way area. Of course I love it. This is a CBC podcast. Hello I'm David Plaza before an DP leader. Jug Meet Sing was competing for the country's. He's talked John or became the first person of color to lead a major national political party. He probably caught your attention with this video. Russia people tall. We retreat someone rug. We welcome you we lose. We welcome you. We love you. That's just me responding to a heckler at a meet and greet in Brampton in two thousand seventeen that video may sing a celebrity fast forward to this current election campaign and sing is again being recognized for his response to a racist incident this time to photos of Justin Trudeau in Brown face and black face so seeing this image is going to be hard for a lot of people is going going to bring up a lot of pain. It's going to bring a lot of hurt. Please reach out to your loved ones. Please reach out to people who are suffering in silence as much as there's been prayed. There's also I've been plenty of criticism around him. Being ill prepared for the job of national leader today. As part of our federal election profile series will get to know joke beat saying the. CBS's Hanadova does here to help us do that. She's been following his story for years. This is from burner Hi Hannah Hi thank you so much for being here. Thanks for having me your back. Are Your back from the campaign trail. You're just for a couple of weeks. Okay okay good and then and then what you go back out I go back out with the Liberals and then I end with n DP leader Jagmeet Singh thing so I kinda miss being out on the campaign trail. You get used to it good. Well I mean. It sounds like you'll be back out very soon forward to but but let's talk about Doug me today. That's why we're here and I want to start with what happened last week. So I know that you were on the campaign trail with Jagmeet Singh when the first photo of Justin Trudeau in Brown face surfaced and as people may remember Jug me spoke to times at night and the second time was really emotional the so many people in this country that believe leaving taking care of one another. I know it's hard to believe right now but there are tell me what was happening behind the scenes. Yeah let me tell you why he did to responses to those photos so it was out of town hall. It was a regular town hall there about one hundred people crammed into the room and it was a really diverse crowd in that room to and that's when the Time magazine story broke seeing hadn't seen the photo when reporters asked for his reaction the report that asks the question made sure to mention that the prime minister's Office had confirmed that Trudeau was wearing during black face and a photo and it was back in two thousand and one before he was prime minister before he was a politician. I'm wondering what you think about this and the response from sing you could see that he was emotional about it. There was almost a gasp in the room from the people. There and sing took a deep breath. He thought about it for a few seconds cans. What's troubling. It's really it's insulting anytime we hear examples of Brown face black facing. It's really it's it's. It's making a mockery. Korea someone for what they live in what the relived experiences are I think he needs answer for it and the room agreed applauding the leader so as Trudeau then held his press conference on the plane. I shouldn't have been I should've known better but I didn't and the movie story. We are on a bus. we were told that sing would speak against so sing watched Justin Trudeau and his response in his hotel room. He made some calls to some people and one of those calls was the reason he came back in front of a camera and yeah yeah it was like it was one of the calls to his friend. Yes sort of reference that in the speech when I responded earlier I hadn't seen the image itself love and seeing the image jarred me and I wasn't sure if I wanted to come out and give a statement but I got a message from a friend and we don't know what that friends said to him exactly but we do know he addressed it and he got extremely emotional in front of the camera. You could see that he was upset. His eyes were watering but also that conversation with someone who didn't want to identify didn't want to go into great detail about it. We assume that person was bullied. The lead that the image affected that person and that person was unable to fight back in their own experience and talked about the Fazlullah auto races amount in my life and I can be honest with you. I thought back when I eight races my father my this but there's a lot of people that weren't able to do that. One of my friends told me how he wasn't able to do that to speak to all of their talk to all the kids out there all the folks who live this hour grown up and are still feeling the pain of racism. I want you to you know that you might feel like giving up in Canada. You might feel like giving up on yourself. I want you to know that you have value you have worth and you are loved and I don't want you to give off with Canada and please. Don't give up on yourselves. He was leader praised on how he handled it yeah it was just one of those moments you know. It really reminded me of that moment with the heckler back in two thousand seventeen at that moment that we talked about in the intro. He's he's really calm. He's he's very classy. See you know growing up as Brown skin turbine bearded man that I face things like this before. It's not it's not a problem. We can deal with it. Let's go back in time. What were the expectations dictation of him. At that point. I think those expectations were pretty high of him because people when they see him in a room want to listen to him want to learn more more about him but it doesn't translate sometimes through a television set but why do you think that is. I think there's this barrier. I think you know even with us on TV. You have to push harder in order to get that message across to for people to know who you are and I think I think that was part of his problem at first to is that he couldn't push that forward but on the campaign you know you see that he knows how to deal L. If unmanaged difficult situations two we are talking about the heckler and that almost seems like when he addresses these people he's taking a page from Michelle Obama's Thomason late book. No our motto is when they go low. We go hi and then even on the campaign. Jamie there was an event in Montreal where where there was a heckler that disrupted that and seeing pipes up and says look let me give you a hug you know you're disrupting this and he goes up and he does give a hug disarming the guy and you can see the guy in the video going saying Oh good hug good house good. He's not the best idea. We've got all these young. He didn't go back to a little bit of protesting but you could tell the totally disarms yeah and he handles these situations by remaining remaining calm he handles them with class in this is his brand though love and courage right the title of his book yeah so he is charismatic person he's very genyk and after that incident with a Heckler earlier on too many thought he could potentially compete with Justin Trudeau uh-huh celebrity in particular you know the shine was kind of wearing off troodos fresh face image and sing was potentially seen as the guy who could win the hearts of voters on the left. Those progressive voters since we're talking about his image right now one another thing. I find pretty interesting about him. Him Is that he's looking incredibly. Well dressed but interestingly. This isn't just about dressing low for him right. It's about something more than that yeah absolutely and this was something thing that his dad taught him. He said if you WANNA be taken seriously you have to dress better than the other person kind of like dress for the job. You want not for the one you have. It's important Horton for him to look sharp often wearing three piece suits. He calls it his social armor. He says there's a lot of stereotypes about a man with a beard and a turban so he feels feels. This is a way to disarm them and potentially stop them from having preconceived notions very athletic overcome that by showing listen. I'm ready. I'm ready for the role of ready for the part dress the part art but then you'll hear the words. I have to say these values. It's interesting to think about how strategic that is or sort of deliberate yeah absolutely I think he has talked a lot. You mentioned before love encouraged the title of this book and and he has talked a lot about his own upbringing and how it's shaped his politics politics particularly in this book and and tell me what was it like for him. Growing up yeah sing was extremely forthcoming in his memoir that you're talking about their love and courage courage about his family about him about the struggles they faced and they faced many so jug needs parents in fact gave him his brother and sister anglicised names which may not know so jug meets real name on his birth certificate is Jimmy powers to help him fit in better at school. However at the age of eight same decided he wanted to use the name Jug meet and he would stop cutting his hair so he writes in his book about kids bullying him taunting him asking him if he was dirty thirty because he had brown skin. WHO's really confusing as a kid because I thought I'm the same person that I was just last year in grade to grade three all of a sudden I don I started getting bullied for the way I looked. That's one of the things and yes he did fight back at times. I didn't give in but it was. It was a bit crushing defeat. Every day. Going to school was a gamble. Would I get picked on today. What I get into a fight with someone attacked me but seeing also wrote about his dad dealing with alcoholism and in in fact he talks about this issue frequently at rallies. He tells the crowd about how he wants visited his father. You know he wasn't living with the family he was estranged. He was living alone. The house was a mass that he was in and sing says he remembers how he had to carry his dad who had lost a lot of weight in order to bathe gave him but it was in that moment seeing him so frail and so ill and had heard his self so much that I really believed there is no other way to describe the Senate illness. No one would choose this for themselves so his dad lost his job. He had private healthcare that you know they put him in Rehab. It didn't work but in in the end it was because of publicly funded healthcare that his dad was able to get help and to get better so as a leader you hear him speaking a lot saying this is publicly funded care is something he says has to continue has to be available and available when it's needed and this is a message. He uses quite frequently at the rallies. It should not matter on the salaries should not matter their job. They should be able to have the access to care. They need everyone our country but there's also in this is really really sensitive. That sing talks about allegations of being sexually abused right as a ten year old boy by his taekwondo instructor. My we've tried to push ahead was to was to say to myself something happened. It's something I don't know how to deal with so. Let's just not think about it. He says in the book. It took him years to talk about it. Because he was ashamed he felt guilty. He didn't want his parents to feel like they were to blame but he realized at a point he wanted to send the message to others others who may have experienced something like this that it's not their fault. One of the things that was really important to me was a tear. Fred told me that wasn't my fault and that was really special and because I knew it wasn't but I didn't. I didn't say to me in fact. He didn't even tell his dad about about this until the book was about to come out because it was in the book. Wow I didn't know yeah so you you can tell he and his family that's just some of the examples have faced many any personal struggles defied those odds and you can see sing continues to express that he's going to do that again. On the campaign trail we have an exciting opportunity unity over the next forty days. We're going to bring a hopeful message to Canadians that we can build the country of our dreams. The one Saturday morning in June one thousand nine hundred nine fifteen year olds charmian on devel- disappeared never came home. No one has ever been charged with her her murder but there was a suspect never come on Mike. I'm Michelle Shepherd this season on uncover. I don't recall homemaking that com okay. That's fine if you don't recall it but I'm telling you that's what you told him uncover Sherman available. Now wherever you get your podcast this is. GonNa Sound interesting. You say this say this as your new leader we talked about all of this hype around him in two thousand seventeen eighteen but you know the truth is that momentum and it didn't really continue and I want to go through some of the hurdles or our miss steps that he encountered after he won the leadership in two thousand seventeen. One thing became very quickly. people have talked about the fact that he is a devout. Sikh and there was a controversy very early on pretty soon after he took over the party over an interview he did with CBC's Terry Milewski asking asking. It's not a let me just finish it. I'm just asking is it appropriate to put up finish my sentence and at the time sing didn't want announce extremists who glorify winding Palmer one of the men responsible for the Air India bombing. Is that appropriate yes or no so it is so unacceptable that the violence violence was committed. The heinous massacre that was committed. Is something that six Muslims Hindus all denounced and he since walked back from that position but Hannah now. Why did he do that in the first place yeah well it took him months to walk that back in that interview as you say he didn't announce extremists within in Canada's seek community who glorify Palmer and to accept the Air India inquiry's conclusions that Palmer was the mastermind behind the terrorist attack that killed hundreds of Canadians so you won't announce those posters of Palmer. I don't know who was responsible but I think we need to find out who's truly responsible. When he came backout. He's to walk back. He said that there are some in the community who have not accepted the findings right Air India inquiry so they still find it hard to accept that Palmer was to blame. I think the displaying of a picture of Mr per mar is something that really traumatizes hurson injuries people that are suffering so much in terms of that loss in their lives and I don't think it's appropriate so I don't think it should be done but if someone else is doing in an event I still think it's important for me to reach out and speak to people and talked about talk about my I journey and I think he was trying to walk that extremely fine line but taking months to do that didn't help him right right. It felt like he was trying to make like like a very nuanced argument about something that for most people was really not that nuance at all no there there there was the inquiry that came out and have these conclusions and I accept the findings of the of the investigation of the inquiry. I accept them and I condemn all those responsible yeah. What are the handling of the situation. Tell you about how he may deal with the high pressure. I think would be federal leader. Yeah I think he learned he cannot odd dabble in nuances. He has to be very clear. He had to have known that question was going to be asked of him. and you know even the chair of the Air India Families Association Bow Gupta. His wife was killed on that flight. He said if saying is a would be prime minister and he can't answer predictable questions about a terrorist attack. It's astonishing these criticisms of unpreparedness it didn't they didn't just come from this incident right like no he was criticized for not knowing his party's position on the Firearms Bill and having to ask a colleague for hope all in the middle of a news conference. Can you tell us whether or not your caucus behind behind you in supporting this at this point. I'm I'm just a moment to clarify time. He was confused about a recent development. In China. Canada relations will doing a TV interview. The ambassador from China accused Canada of quote white supremacy. If you were the prime minister what would you say to the Chinese Janis Right now. Sorry who accuse you of white supremacy the the ambassador knew what do you make of criticisms that he just isn't prepared and and perhaps doesn't yet have the policy Gravitas to lead the MVP to victory. I think that he has learned from from that is well. You know he probably wasn't prepared for those interviews. He didn't know what his party's policy is but so far on the campaign he he seems to have learned from that and at the events when you ask him questions about the costing about the details. He seems to have all of those answers. He hasn't been caught up like he. He has in those you know standing in front of a television not knowing what is happening that was a learning curve for him and he seems is to have move forward from that at this point. I'm thinking of like former. MVP leaders like Tom Mulcair and ED broadbent here who like I know loved loved getting into the nitty gritty policies were kind of policy wonks and house Jagmeet Singh different from them. I think when it comes to Jug neat saying he wants to use his personal experiences to talk about his policies. So it's more of a personal connection with people you know he uses the example in his dad a lot and so you kind of get the sense that he's a bit more like Jack Layton to the other to think of all the people who came before us the millions of men and women who believe so passionately in a more fair society and they refuse to give up often in the face of overwhelming on weekends at I'll talk to you you about the MVP itself so you know we you and I've talked about this on the padres before the MVP had a lot of trouble fundraising there in like kind of dire hire straits financially right now saying is starting the official campaign low in the polls and with a diminished war chest. How much of this is a party problem or the judge me problem I would say it's probably both of the party was in disarray after you know they ousted Tom. Mulcair the ground around game is not what it once was. It's virtually non existent in some places. They're having difficulty getting a full roster of candidates to run in this election campaign this is also a big problem in Quebec for them. You know the end EP have fourteen seats their polling shows set all of those are at risk and they could be wiped out in combat yeah. This is a province remember that gave the Party official opposition status in two thousand eleven under Jack Layton's orange wave and remember this to this is why I say it could be both is that this is the province that bans the wearing of religious symbols for some positions of authority recent polls show that you know quebecers the majority of them support built twenty one and it's obvious you know Mr Singh wears. There's a turban and carries a pattern. He also has a French ad that opens with him wrapping his long hair up in a turban fifty so you think you a centrally his very identity is a political liability for him. Yes yes I do and the reason why I say this. It is a very sensitive issue but I mean I've heard people on the sidelines who won't go on camera saying things like like his policies seems like a nice guy but I can't vote for Brown Mana Turban. They won't talk on camera but another person said to me at a ploughing match. They hadn't seen someone wearing a yellow turban driving orange tractor before right so this is what people are saying and sings team even admits. It's an issue okay looking at the aftermath from last week with the Trudeau Black Face Brown faced controversy. Do you think that it could also be a political asset for him. The idea that he's the only political leader equipped to talk about racism from life experience there there was definitely a different feel on the campaign after sings response to that issue definitely a different feel. It's like that response was to address. The people who felt the prime minister was mocking walking their lives and he said he's felt that in the past he even said at a rally in Windsor after the Brown face black face issue came up but to be honest with you. I really do believe that. People are are seeing themselves reflected in this campaign and that to me is the most important thing and you can tell there is even a different feel in the room there. It was a bigger crowd. people were really connecting with him. The Excitement Roy. I feel people are seeing themselves so this could be a moment where voters reassess and take another look at singing the end EP. I'm not sure though if that's going to translate into end EP candidates candidates getting elected but there was definitely a different energy on the campaign since I can't help but thinking talking about Tokyo things life he has sort of always been an underdog here right and I was thinking of Jack Lead in in two thousand eleven his numbers also started out around thirteen percents or not very different from the MVP is now and so this the idea that he's accustomed to being an underdog. We've got about a month ago. Do Do you think that that could be an advantage here or do you have the sense that it might be too late. Deepest time around I think he revels in being an underdog. I think he knows what it's like his whole life to be in that position and if you look at when since he election started the liberals and the Conservatives have spent a lot of time attacking each other Justin Trudeau Andrew share often playing the political game this this is really allowed saying to focus on his policies so he's out there trying to get people to know what he stands for get to know him better so many people go through so much. They need someone to stand up for them and I hope I can do that of course is a lot of work to do the MVP vp are pulled tracker shows still a very distant third but he never appears discouraged by this and you're saying well Hannah. Thank you so much for this. This was such an interesting Kerr sation. I learned a lot. You're quite welcome okay. That's all for today front burner comes to from ABC News and CBC podcasts. The show is produced by Shannon Higgins. Elaine Chao imaging pressured Crisper Bay Derek Bandra Wyche is our sound designer. 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