New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh politely shrugged off a guy on the campaign trail who told Singh to cut his turban off in Montreal Wednesday.
Singh is in Montreal for the French leadership debate airing tonight in the all-important electoral battleground of Quebec.
The NDP leader, a practising Sikh known for wearing colourful turbans, greeted a man while walking at an open-air market.
After some brief pleasantries, the bespectacled man leaned in and quietly told Singh his suggested key to winning Quebeckers’ hearts.
“You should cut your turban off,” was the unsolicited advice. Why? To “look like a Canadian,” of course.
Singh replied with typical calm: "I think Canadians look like all sorts of people, that's the beauty of Canada."
"In Rome, you do as the Romans do," the man said.
"But this is Canada, you can do whatever you like," Singh said before moving on.
Singh is the first person of colour to lead one of Canada’s major parties, and the reaction to his beard and turban is arguably louder than reactions to his ideas.
Even long-time NDP supporters in places like rural Ontario openly talk about wanting him to take off his turban.
Singh has been open about the religious significance of his turban on the campaign trail. "The biggest purpose for why Sikhs have this identity is that it represents what Sikhs believe in,” he said in a CBC interview this month. “Justice for all, equality, a really radical notion of compassion.”
Singh has encountered in-your-face racism since he ran for party leadership in 2017.
A woman screamed at him for supporting “Shariah law” at an event in Mississauga during the leadership run.
His party has since tried to familiarize Quebec with Singh’s religious dress through a TV ad.
Quebec’s law preventing public servants from wearing religious symbols while at work is likely to be a focal point of tonight’s French debate.
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