Canada’s Jagmeet Singh Removed From House Of Commons For Calling Out Racism

Singh was putting forward a motion to reduce and prevent systemic racism in the RCMP, Canada’s federal police force.

Canada’s Jagmeet Singh Removed From House Of Commons For Calling Out Racism

Singh was putting forward a motion to reduce and prevent systemic racism in the RCMP, Canada’s federal police force.

By

Nabeeha Asim & Wali Ahmad

Photo - Getty Images / Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

Canadian New Democratic Party leader and member of parliament Jagmeet Singh was removed from the House of Commons for having unapologetically called Bloc Québécois’s Alain Therrien, also a member of parliament, a racist. Singh’s comment came after Therrien became the sole vote against a motion to combat systemic racism in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) earlier this week.

Addressing the House, Singh highlighted the motion’s four main components, which consists of “reviewing the nearly 10 million dollar a day RCMP budget and increase non police investments in nonviolent intervention, insure that the RCMP is truly accountable to the public, releasing all RCMP incidents of “use-of-force” reports, and immediately launching a full report on the use-of-force by the RCMP including the tactics and the training that is given to them in dealing with the public.”  

After Singh had explained the motion, Anthony Rota, speaker of the House of Commons, asked the House for consent to move the motion; in an almost unanimous crowd of “yeses”, however, Singh was shocked to hear one “no” from Therrien, who dismissed the motion with the wave of his hand. Angered, he immediately called Therrien out for being racist. Singh, seen as too emotional, was instantaneously marked down in value by Therrien’s political party for the “altercation.” He was also prompted by Rota and other Bloc Quebecois members of parliament to apologize, which Singh refused to do. Singh was then told to leave the House for the remainder of the proceeding.

Hours later, Singh provided a more detailed account of what had transpired and further described how he felt in light of Therrien’s dissent. “Why can’t we act, why can’t we do something to save peoples lives? We can do something, and why would someone say no to that?” Singh told the media. “I’ll be honest, I got angry, but I’m now sad.”

Reactions by the other party leaders were mixed. Prime Minister of Canada and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau took to the media to defend Singh. “It is not for me to criticize any Canadian, particularly the only racialized leader in the House of Commons, for making other people uncomfortable by calling them out for not recognizing systemic discrimination”, he said. “It remains problematic that the Bloc Québécois refuses to recognize systemic racism in the RCMP and this country.” 

Singh, although touched by the show of support, implied that kind words are not enough. “We need to see action,” he said. “That’s what I’m calling for, concrete action to end the use of force and the brutality and the lives being lost.”

READ MORE: Police Kill 62-Year-Old Ejaz Choudry After Undergoing Schizophrenia Episode In His Apartment

On the other hand, Yves-Francois Blanchet, Leader of Bloc Québécois, demanded a formal apology. Blanchet fears that having no severe consequences associated with Singhs actions will encourage “everybody [to] feel entitled to do the same”, claiming that Therrien’s dismissive hand gesture that resulted in Singh’s exclamation was “open to interpretation” and was not “explicit” enough for everyone to have understood.

Ironically, many Canadians have taken the view that the removal of Singh for his justified reaction to the dissent of a motion that combats systemic racism, is a racist reaction in and of itself. The call for a motion addressing systemic racism in the federal police comes in response to the heightened concerns surrounding racism and police brutality highlighted by the now-global Black Lives Matter movement. Singh highlighted that the creation of the motion was a result of the ongoing protests to fight racism, and that this issue is equally prominent in Canada as it is in the United States. 

The removal of Singh from the House proceeding was essentially a move to silent a person with lived experiences of racism from speaking out about what many find to be a hard-to-accept truth.

This is not the first time that members and candidates of the Bloc Québécois Party have been under fire for racist sentiment. In October 2019, Canadian media outlets uncovered numerous Islamophobic and racist social media posts either created or shared by candidates running for the party. All candidates apologized for their comments, with Blanchet adding his own apologies “to the entire population of Quebec.” Blanchet and the Bloc Québécois Party have previously defended Quebec’s discriminatory provincial Bill 21 removing the right to wear religious symbols – such as the hijab, turban or kippa – in the province’s public service.

Therrien’s implied racist sentiment is not new in federal Canadian politics. In 2017, the House of Commons had passed the Liberal Party’s motion (M-103) condemning Islamophobia and “all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” The motion asked that a governmental committee collect data on related hate crimes, and study the various methodologies that could effectively eliminate these issues. Although the motion was passed by a vote of 201-91, Many of those who opposed this motion were worried that it would “result in Sharia law being imposed in Canada” and had decidedly voted against it, despite the motion’s clear intention to combat systemic racism. 

Therrien’s reaction to the NDP’s current motion shares uncanny similarities with reactions to motion M-103. The inability to vote in favor of a governmental action which explicitly aims to reduce and prevent systemic racism or Islamophobia undoubtably implies racist and Islamophobic sentiment. The only difference between then and now is that a racialized political party leader has effectively called out racism in the Canadian government – only to be penalized for it.

Police Kill 62-Year-Old Ejaz Choudry After Undergoing Schizophrenia Episode In His Apartment

“He can’t think straight, he’s schizophrenic, and police are going and killing him because he’s going to kill himself? Where’s the logic in that?”

62-year-old Ejaz Ahmed Choudry, who suffered from schizophrenia, was shot and killed by a Peel Region police officer in his apartment in Mississauga, Canada. His family had called a non-emergency line in order for him to be taken to the hospital during a mental-health crisis. 

Police Constable Sarah Patten confirmed that the initial call stated that Mr. Choudry was suffering from a medical condition and had not taken his medication. She further stated that he was alone in his home, was in a “state of crisis” and believed that he was armed with a kitchen knife. As a result, Patten confirmed that the police believed that Mr. Choudry was a danger to himself.

When the police arrived, they removed everyone from the apartment except Mr. Choudry. “When that happened, his daughter started yelling his name, saying ‘Come outside. They want to help you.’” said Khizar Shahzard, a nephew of the victim. Upon hearing his daughter, Choudry opened the door but closed it immediately after seeing the police. Shahzad recalls telling the officers that his uncle is scared of their uniforms and guns. “If you go upstairs with that, he’s going to be scared. He’s having an episode.”

The officers started shouting at him in English from outside the apartment. Choudry, an immigrant from Pakistan, did not speak English. The family says they asked to be allowed to try and calm their uncle down, but the officers refused and told them to remain patient. “Anyone in distress knows that when anyone you know that really cares about you comes and tells you ‘Hey, it’s going to be okay,’ it makes a difference, said Hassan Choudhary, Mr. Choudhry’s nephew. “None of us were able to go up there and say, ‘Uncle, you’re going to be okay.’” 

The Province of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) – which steps in where officers are involved in cases of death or serious injury – stated that Mr. Choudry had locked himself in the unit and the officers were able to communicate with him for a period of time. After communication with Mr. Choudry had stopped, the officers had forcefully entered the unit. 

While officers were trying to access the front door, other officers scaled the balcony. Upon entry, the officers had used a taser and fired plastic projectiles from an anti-riot weapon. When these weapons appeared to have no effect, Mr. Choudry was shot and killed shortly afterwards. The SIU is currently investigating approximately ten officers, and has obtained video footage related to the case.

One video, taken by a bystander and posted on Twitter, shows tactical units entering through the second-floor unit’s balcony, and three officers are shown yelling into the apartment and kicking open the door; gunshots can be heard before all three officers entered.

Mr. Choudry’s death comes during a time of heightened scrutiny of police brutality and systemic racism in North America. “He wasn’t a danger to anyone else. He was by himself in his home where he felt safe,” said Hassan Choudhary, the victim’s nephew. “He can’t think straight, he’s schizophrenic, and [police] are going and killing him because he’s going to kill himself? Where’s the logic in that?” He stated that his uncle would easily be out of breath after taking only a few steps, and was not trying to hurt anyone else.

Mr. Choudhary’s comments highlight the lack of de-escalation tactics used by the police. “It’s clear from everything that the family has already shared, from the eyewitness reports, from the video evidence that we have, that the senseless acts of Peel police yesterday was wildly excessive,” said Ibrahim Hindy, president of the Muslim Council of Peel. 

“There are reports in the news saying they [had tried] to de-escalate the situation. I was there. There was no conversation.” Shahzad said.

The family, along with Mr. Hindy, held a news conference and demanded a public inquiry into the shooting. 

“It’s sad to see that someone that genuine and beautiful is taken from us.” said Mr. Choudhary, who describes his uncle as a bright, caring man who always spent time with his family. 

“What happened yesterday was a crazy event. Something that we never thought we’d ever have to see” said Mr. Choudhary. “It was a tough time because we felt that police, paramedics are there to help you, protect you and serve you. But after yesterday’s episode, it really shows you who’s here to protect and serve you. There’s no one.”

“They keep saying he was a threat to himself, but what did you do? You thought he was a threat to himself, so you’re going to kill him?”

Protests ensued across the Greater Toronto Area as a result of Mr. Chaudry’s death, calling for “Justice for Ejaz” and police reform. Earlier this week, a police officer was suspended amid a video showing the officer pushing a man to the ground in Oakville, Ontario. Mr. Chaudry has also become one of the many recent innocent victims to fall victim to police brutality in Canada. Earlier this year, Campbell D’Andre, a 26 year-old black man was also fatally shot by the Peel Police after experiencing a mental health crisis in his own home.

“It’s very sad when a life is lost in our community” said Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie on Twitter. “I ask the SIU to act quickly. Our goal is to support the vulnerable and ensure these incidents never happen again. The 2021 @PeelPolice budget will be reviewed through a different lens.”

Anyone with information or video evidence of the incident is asked to contact the lead investigator at 1-800-787-8529.

READ MORE: Muslim Woman Forced To Take Mugshot Without Hijab In Florida

Muslim Hijab-Wearing Teen Punched Repeatedly While On Transit In Vancouver

17-year old Muslim teenager wearing a hijab was assaulted on a bus in downtown Vancouver, Canada

Muslim Hijab-Wearing Teen Punched Repeatedly While On Transit In Vancouver

17-year old Muslim teenager wearing a hijab was assaulted on a bus in downtown Vancouver, Canada

By

Wali Ahmad
Police are trying to identify a woman who allegedly attacked a teenager wearing a headscarf on public transit on May 21, 2020. (Handout)

June 7, 2020A 17-year old Muslim teenager wearing a hijab was assaulted on a bus in downtown Vancouver, Canada on May 21. The transit police have launched an investigation and are requesting the public’s help in identifying the assailant after releasing images of the woman.

According to Metro Vancouver Transit Police’s news release, the victim and her mother were confronted by a female passenger regarding her ethnicity and her Canadian status. After having made a comment to the effect of “your smile is making me want to punch you in the face,” the passenger proceeded to punch the victim several times and partially knocked off her hijab. The two were later separated by the teen’s mother and another passenger. 

A good samaritan followed the assailant off the bus while calling 911. The assailant, after noticing that she was being followed, began assaulting the good samaritan before pulling out a knife. The good samaritan kept their distance and the assailant fled from the scene. 

The suspect is described as possibly an Indigenous woman, approximately 40 years old, 5’8 and weighing around 140lbs. At the time of the assault, she was wearing a black hat, dark sunglasses, dark top with the word “Pink” written on the back, blue jean shorts and black boots, and was carrying a silver reflective backpack.

 

“There is no place for hate, racism or biases on the transit system” said the Transit Police in its news release. “All passengers using our transit system have the right to travel without fear of harassment or assault. Metro Vancouver Transit Police would like to speak to anyone with information about the identity of this suspect or who witnessed this incident.”

Should you recognize the woman, we urge you to contact Metro Vancouver Transit Police’s tip line at 604-516-7419 or by text at 87-77-77 and refer to file 2020-9802.

The incident is hardly the first of its kind in the area. A similar incident occurred almost three years ago in Vancouver’s SkyTrain public transit system, where an 18-year old Noor Fadel was harassed by a man screaming insults, attempting sexual assault and threatened to “kill all Muslims.” When he tried to grab her head, a fellow passenger, 21-year old Jake Taylor, intervened. The assailant was arrested and charged with assault and threatening to cause death or bodily harm.

READ MORE: Ahmaud Arbery Was Called A Racial Slur As He Was Being Killed