NDP's Jagmeet Singh proving to be challenge for media, Sikh activists say

Covering Canada’s first federal party leader who is a visible minority is proving to be a challenge to Canadian media, two Sikh political activists say.

'This isn’t really journalism like I would expect in Canada'

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks to reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons, in Ottawa last Wednesday. Some critics say the media is finding covering Singh a challenge. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Covering Canada's first federal party leader who is a member of a visible minority is proving to be a challenge to Canadian media, two Sikh political activists say.

Arundeep Sandhu, a small business owner and conservative activist, said the media's treatment of newly elected federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is so far disappointing.

"This isn't really journalism like I would expect in Canada," Sandhu told CBC's Mark Connolly on Edmonton AM on Monday.

Singh, a Sikh MPP in Ontario, was elected leader on Oct. 1.

The next day, he was interviewed on CBC's Power and Politics by Terry Milewski, who steered the conversation toward the Air India bombing in 1985, a subject Milewski covered at length at the time and in the three decades since.

'Now the work begins'

6 years ago
Duration 8:22
Jagmeet Singh, new leader of the federal NDP, sits down with Terry Milewski on his first day on the job

Air India Flight 182 was blown up on June 23, 1985, killing 329 passengers, including 280 Canadians, making the bombing the deadliest terrorist attack in Canadian history.

Milewski pushed Singh, who was six years old at the time of the bombing, on whether he would condemn Sikhs who celebrate Talwinder Singh Parmar, the man thought to have been the mastermind of the bombing, as a martyr.

As Milewski pressed on, interrupting Singh a number of times, Singh refused to be pinned down.

Sandhu and NDP activist Nav Kaur, both Sikhs participating on a panel discussion about what challenges Singh faces as the member of a visible minority to lead a federal party, said Milewski's questions to Singh showed bias.

"The questions were just unfair, to me," Kaur said. "You don't see someone like a Jason Kenney asked to answer for the troubles of the '70s in the U.K.

"He's proud of being Roman Catholic; he's proud of being Irish in his roots, but he's born and raised here," Sandhu said. 

"So when you see Jagmeet Singh go up there, and rightly or wrongly, the hopes of an entire community are kind of on his shoulders, and the first thing he has to answer for is something he was a kid for."

Kaur said taking Singh to account over the history of the Sikh people in Canada is why many in the community are wary of entering public life.

"It's very complex," she said. "And to put that on our shoulders, of this generation, is unfair."

"That's one of the reasons why a lot of young people born and raised here in the Sikh community are scared to be in the public discourse," she said.