Kids Corner


Sikh Principles Jagmeet Singh Should Use To Modernize Our Democracy





Jagmeet Singh, newly elected leader of the federal New Democratic Party, stirred the hearts of Canadians and people worldwide with his grown-up handling of a rabidly ignorant heckler at a political meeting.

The attorney-turned-politician showed more than one million worldwide viewers how to deal with the truly deplorable. Some say the heckler was practising "protection of Canadian values," which for them includes opposing motion M-103, a motion to condemn Islamophobia. But many Canadians who saw the clip recognized a Sikh tenet in action: Sarbat da Bhala (goodwill to all).

Some have pointed out the brown-skinned, turbaned Sikh-Canadian had no choice but to deal with the in-your-face harassment in a forgiving manner. Such is the lot of minorities everywhere. Visible or invisible, we are required to know the majority culture just for survival; the majority, whether English or French in origin, isn't required to know much about us. Or even think about us.

Which explains why to many Canadians, Jagmeet Singh is a first, an aberration. However, Jagmeet stands on the shoulders of previous Sikh-Canadian politicians, and the many Sikh men and women who participate daily at the local level.

I urge Jagmeet to take a few positions inspired by Sikh principles to modernize Canadian democracy:

*   Learn constantly: The word Sikh means a learner – that’s why everyone can be a Sikh. I hope Jagmeet’s election makes it less cool to be ignorant and fear-filled. Make it unacceptable to be ignorant of other Canadians. Each one, teach one about yourself. Each one, interview one to learn about one another. And each one learn one more language besides French and English.

*   Be a feminist (From Guru Nanak: “Without Woman, there would be no one at all”): Headscarves allow young Muslim women to participate in public spaces and compromise with the tradition. Wigs make it possible for young Orthodox Jewish women to work. Head coverings help minority women. Opposing a ban on dress codes also benefits Sikh men and women who wear turbans, Orthodox Jewish men wearing yarmulkes, nuns who wish to wear a coif and brides who enjoy wearing veils. It has nothing to do with that bogeyman “sharia law” – it’s the secular, feminist thing to do. I hope Jagmeet continues to oppose a ban on headcoverings.

*   Include all Canadians (Sarbat da Bhala): Re-enfranchise non-resident Canadians. Change the rule that Canadians who live more than five years outside Canada lose their vote. Expats and Canadian diplomatic personnel posted abroad are Canadians and represent Canada every day. Modern communications make it possible for non-resident Canadians to be attuned and involved with Canadian politics today. We should not be disenfranchised.

*   Help more Canadians to work (Kirat Karo, Wund Chhako): Ask all Canadians to invest in Canada. Change the rule that non-resident Canadians cannot invest in Canada without losing 25 per cent of their return on investment to taxes. Change the rule that individual non-resident Canadians cannot invest in Canadian real estate.

My hope is that Jagmeet Singh's election widens Canadian majority awareness. Sikhs don't proselytize, but Canadians may better understand Sikhism every time we see leaders like Jagmeet Singh practising its principles.

Come to think of it, we might better understand Christianity, Islam, Judaism and many other faiths if we all practiced the principle they have in common: compassion.

Shauna Singh Baldwin is an award-winning author. Her most recent work of non-fiction is ‘Reluctant Rebellions: New and Selected Non-Fiction’ and her most recent novel is ‘The Selector of Souls‘.

[Courtesy: The Globe and Mail. Edited for]

October 5, 2017

Conversation about this article

1: Amarjit Singh Chandan (London, United Kingdom), October 07, 2017, 7:30 AM.

Hear, hear! These guidelines could certainly be of use to the Sikh political leadership of the present East Punjab, and elsewhere.

2: Prof. Pritam Singh (Oxford, United Kingdom), October 07, 2017, 3:09 PM.

A good invocation by Shauna Singh Baldwin to the Sikh values of gender equality, respect for labour, socialist ethics of sharing and universal solidarity (sarbat da bhalla).

3: G C Singh (USA), October 09, 2017, 1:33 PM.

Except for some negative stories by "vested" interests, Jagmeet Singh has generally been getting rave reviews so far. However, he has to be extremely careful, because one mistake, one tweet, or one social media post can turn around things very quickly. Looking for a controversy to get ratings, the media will also be pitching him against Trudeau and other Sikh liberal ministers. His answer should be that he "respects and admires Trudeau personally, and would not engage in name calling or mudslinging. Our differences are on policies and I would conduct my campaign only in an ethical and uplifting manner for the benefit of all Canadians." It is a very proud moment for Sikhs, but let us also be realistic that Justin Trudeau has been a great friend of Sikhs who boldly inducted four Sikhs in his cabinet, including the Minister of Defense and the Leader of the House. In fact there is every possibility that votes may get divided between Liberals and the NDP in the Toronto and Vancouver areas which will help the bigoted Conservative party to get back in the saddle. Therefore, Jagmeet Singh needs to be politically savvy and depending upon the polling data before elections, he should be open to fighting the next elections in coalition with Liberals where he gets concessions on his agenda and a fair share of parliamentary seats where NDP can win and in fact becomes the kingmaker. Many countries, including Britain, have been been ruled by multi-party coalitions. West Germany is still being run by a coalition for more than a decade.

4: Brig Nawab Singh Heer (Retd) (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), October 10, 2017, 12:59 PM.

This is the second time I am commenting on Jagmeet. Last year in one of my comments I had predicted that Jagmeet had potential to be PM of Canada one day. That time I had not even met Jagmeet. Today, having interviewed him twice for a TV channel, I can say with confidence that he has the mettle to be one. Very rightly suggested that now he has nothing to lose; he must totally follow the lofty principles of Sikhism - 'AKKI RAHE NA KOI'.

5: Arjan Singh (USA), October 15, 2017, 12:31 AM.

Shauna: Thank you for writing this piece. Your writings are doing great service to society. Jagmeet Singh, due to his appearance, will commit to the highest human rights principles. He made it so far based on his grit, determination and unflinching faith in basic human principles. Unlike many politicians and leaders around the world, Jagmeet is a lighthouse of hope. Not just the Sikh community, many others around the world look up to him for inspiration and leadership.

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