The Globe and Mail – Jagmeet Singh addresses turban head-on in new Quebec NDP advertisement

Kristy Kirkup

Ottawa – Ontario – Canada, 04 September 2019. Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is including his identity as a turbaned Sikh in his pitch to voters in a province immersed in debate over separating the state from religious symbols.

Mr Singh, who is expected to face a fierce battle in Quebec in the forthcoming campaign, is featured in a new advertisement that begins by showing the leader with his hair down, a marked difference from his usual appearance, where his hair is concealed under coloured turbans.

The ad release comes as Mr Singh is dealing with challenges such as slumping fundraising, naming a roster of candidates and the Tuesday announcement that 14 former candidates from the New Brunswick NDP are now joining the provincial and federal Green parties.

Mélanie Richer, a spokesperson for Mr Singh, played down the announcement from the Greens on Tuesday, adding the NDP will soon be announcing a full slate of candidates in New Brunswick and that “people change their mind for who they would like to support.”

The party is also hoping that through its Quebec advertisement, set to be circulated online and on television, that it can deliver a message that its leader may look different but that he shares progressive values on issues such as climate change.

Intense debate has played out in Quebec over a law barring public-sector employees such as teachers from wearing religious symbols in the workplace.

For his part, Mr Singh said he will not shy away from talking about his turban.

“What I want to achieve with that is assure folks that I kind of get Quebeckers have had to fight, for respect, for space, for their language, for their identity,” he said.

“It has been tough. I’ve had to as well, fight for a lot of things in my life and I get that it is not easy.”

The advertisement amounts to a show of authenticity for the leader, said NDP Quebec lieutenant Alexandre Boulerice, adding Quebeckers will appreciate that he is being genuine about who he is.

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