Jagmeet Singh proud of brother for confronting heckler at MuslimFest

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he's proud of his brother for confronting comments Ontario politician Gurratan Singh says amounted to Islamophobia during a festival in Mississauga this weekend.

National Citizens Alliance founder confronted Gurratan Singh at event in Mississauga, Ont.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, left, says he's proud of his brother, Ontario politician Gurratan Singh, who said, 'We don't need that kind of racism in Canada,' after he was confronted by a man at MuslimFest in Mississauga. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he's proud of his brother for confronting comments Ontario politician Gurratan Singh says amounted to Islamophobia during a festival in Mississauga this weekend.

In a video posted to Twitter on Sunday, a protester later identified as National Citizens Alliance founder Stephen Garvey confronts Gurratan Singh at MuslimFest, and asks if he supports Shariah law and "political Islam." 

The Brampton East MPP responds, "We don't need that kind of racism in Canada."

Security can be seen trying to escort Garvey out while he's yelling, "I'm not racist. I'm not racist at all."

During a stop in Toronto on Monday to mark Labour Day, Jagmeet Singh told reporters: "I gotta admit, I'm proud of my brother for responding with strength, responding clearly that that is wrong.

"For so many Canadians this a reality, that what happened to my brother yesterday is not a one-off incident."

The NDP leader, whose family is actually Sikh, said it's important to come out against any form of racism. 

"Any time I've been faced — or any time my brother clearly has been faced — with Islamophobia, the response hasn't been, 'Hey, I'm not a Muslim,' it's, 'Hey, hate is wrong and we've got to stand together,'" Singh said. 

"People, because of their gender, because of their sexuality, because of the colour of their skin, because of their language, because of their religion face that on a regular basis. I want to say to you, don't give up, believe in who you are, be confident, be strong. But it's all our responsibility, collectively, to make sure you don't have to take this on your own."

Gurratan Singh tweeted out the video of the confrontation Sunday, adding he "will always stand with my Muslim brothers and sisters and say hate is wrong."

Trudeau, Scheer respond

The National Citizens Alliance, a registered political party that describes itself as a "true populist, nationalist" party, later took credit for the incident on its Facebook.

Arif Zia, one of the festival's organizers, said security staff handled the situation and Garvey left the festival, but lingered outside until 11 p.m. ET.

"It is unfortunate an anti-Muslim heckler came to destroy the peace and project Islamophobic rhetoric at MPP Gurratan Singh," he said. "We applaud MPP Gurratan's rejection against the racism and hatred. We appreciate his inclusive sentiments to stand with the Canadian Muslim community."

Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said this isn't the first time Garvey has heckled a Muslim-based festival, and it likely won't be the last. 

"We're seeing more and more of this creep into mainstream politics, we're seeing more kind of dog whistle-y politics signalling to these people that it's OK to express overt hate and racism," he said.

"And as a result you will see more of it expressed, you'll see more of them come out of the closet as kind of bigoted individuals. They feel more comfortable sharing those views publicly." 

A spokesperson for Prime Minsiter Justin Trudeau called the comments directed at Singh "unacceptable. 

"Racism and discrimination have no place in Canada, and we'll always stand with Canadians against attempts to divide us or sow fear," said Matt Pascuzzo in an email to CBC News.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who was in Hamilton on Monday for the Labour Day classic football game between the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger Cats, also denounced the incident.

"There's no place in Canadian society for people who espouse racist, anti-Muslim, any kind of hatred based on one's religion, race, sexual orientation or background," he said.

"I think all political leaders have an obligation to promote the kind of respectful dialogue on issues and not make one's identity a part of the debate."

Jagmeet Singh has had his own brush with public outbursts. During the NDP leadership campaign in 2017, a heckler interrupted one of his meet-and-greets, and accused Singh of wanting to impose Shariah law and of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

Singh responded, saying, "We welcome you. We love you."


Catharine Tunney is a reporter with CBC's Parliament Hill bureau, where she covers national security and the RCMP. She worked previously for CBC in Nova Scotia. You can reach her at catharine.tunney@cbc.ca

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