Thursday 31 October 2019

Jagmeet Singh Owes Canadians an Apology

Jagmeet Singh Owes Canadians an Apology

During Canada’s 2019 federal election campaign, voters learned that in 2001 Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wore brown-face makeup at a party in the private school where he was then a teacher.

This was shocking, and the excuse that times were different in 2001 is nonsense. Decent white people in North America have known since the 1950s that it is at best insulting, at worst racist, to wear “black-face” makeup, with its demeaning implications for people of African descent. “Brown-face,” which Trudeau wore when he dressed up as the mythical figure Alladin, is also demeaning, if not racist. Trudeau repeatedly apologized, as he should have.

Jagmeet Singh
But now that the election is over, Jagmeet Singh also owes Canadians an apology. Singh is the leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, whose general position is to the left of the Liberals, and which holds the balance of power in Canada’s new minority Liberal parliament.

In February 2018, the New Democratic Party invited Tamika Mallory, an African-American organizer of the Million Women March against Donald Trump, to speak at its convention. Mallory was accused of being a supporter of Louis Farrakhan.   This accusation was based in part on her attendance at a speech by Farrakhan and on previous statements she had made in his support.

Farrakhan is an anti-Semite who as recently as 2018 said "the powerful Jews are my enemy.” He is also homophobic, and attributes homosexuality to Jewish influence. In 2019 he said “Pedophilia and sexual perversion institutionalized in Hollywood and the entertainment industries can be traced to Talmudic principles and Jewish influence.”

Mallory has since acknowledged the reality of anti-Semitism and the need to combat it. At the same time, however, she argues that it is unnecessary for her to condemn or denounce Farrakhan. Nevertheless, Mallory’s attendance at Farrakhan’s speech and her unwilling, then and now, to denounce him for his anti-Semitic and homophobic views suggests that she was not an appropriate speaker for a national Canadian political convention.  
Tamika Mallory

Mallory has also declined to agree that Israel has a right to exist, saying "everyone has a right to exist” but not acknowledging Israel’s right to exist as a state

It is legitimate to criticize Israel for its discriminatory treatment of its Arab citizens and for its violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the West Bank and Gaza. It is even legitimate to compare Israel’s current treatment of its Arab citizens and of people in the occupied territories to apartheid. This is not necessarily anti-Semitism; indeed, many Jewish critics of the policies of the state of Israel make such comparisons.

But when you refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, you are applying a standard rarely, if ever, applied to any other country. Anti-Israel activists do not, for example, campaign against the right of Serbia to exist as a state, yet it was founded in violence 50 years after the founding of Israel.

I have almost always voted for the NDP, as I believe that Canada needs a strong social-democratic party in Parliament. Therefore, when I learned about Mallory’s connections to Farrakhan, I contacted NDP headquarters three times to ask why it had invited her to speak. I would have been satisfied with a reply acknowledging that the NDP should not have invited her. But I received no reply.

As the leader of the federal NDP, Jagmeet Singh should apologize both to Canada’s Jewish community and to its LGBT+ community for the NDP’s having invited Malika Mallory to address it in 2018. He should acknowledge that, at best, the NDP made a mistake.
Singh should also acknowledge that anti-Semitism is not merely offensive to Canada’s Jewish population. It is offensive—or should be—to anyone who cares about any kind of racism in Canada. Singh should acknowledge the harm the NDP did by inviting someone connected to a known anti-Semite and homophobe to address its national convention. He should officially apologize for this invitation and for the NDP’s silence about the matter over the last 20 months. He should deliver this apology in the presence not only of leaders of Canada’s Jewish community and its LGBTQ+ communities, but also in the presence of other members of Canada’s social justice community who actively oppose both homophobia and anti-Semitism.

Singh should also apologize for—presumably--wishing that this issue would go away, much as Trudeau apologized for hoping that pictures of him in brown-face would never be exposed.
Trudeau last wore brown-face in 2001. 

The NDP invited a speaker who had attended speeches by a known anti-Semite and homophobe, and who refuses to denounce this individual, to address its national convention in 2018. This speaker has also refused to acknowledge the right of the state of Israel to exist. It would seem that the NDP’s error--as it can best be described--and its unwillingness to acknowledge and apologize for it, is far more egregious than Trudeau’s.