The video shows the New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh, the only Sikh political leader in Canada, and also the first non-white leader of an opposition party, as he exchanges pleasantries with an elderly voter from Montreal, Quebec.
The man then leans in closer to Singh to make a suggestion saying, “You should cut your turban off, and you’ll look like a Canadian.”
The video has gone viral, garnering 1.5 million views since being posted. It has evoked a sharp response from netizens with many of them slamming it for bigotry and discrimination.
"I think Canadians look like all sorts of people- that's the beauty of Canada," Singh responded.
"In Rome, you do as the Romans do," the man replied.
"But this is Canada, you can do whatever you like," said Singh.
"Alright, take care," the man responded. "I hope you win."
Turbans represent primary religious identity for Sikhs in any part of the world.
The turban-clad New Democratic Party leader Singh later took to Twitter to share the video of his brief interaction with the Canadian voter.
Countering the views of the Canadian voter, Singh took to Twitter and said, “Many Canadians are told that we must change who we are to succeed. My message to you: do not change who you are. Everyone deserves his place.”
Beaucoup de Canadien·nes se font dire qu'on doit changer qui nous sommes pour réussir. Mon message pour vous : ne changez pas qui vous êtes. Tout le monde mérite sa place. https://t.co/T8wDnfsNMi— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) October 2, 2019
The video was met by angry netizens who vehemently opposed it calling it a “racist attack”.
After watching that clip, I have the utmost respect for Jagmeet. Not sure how we as Canadians can treat each other so poorly. We need more understanding not judgment. We need to accept each other’s cultural differences. It is what makes us Canadian. Let’s be better Canadians— Brewy (@brewyj) October 3, 2019
Wow he handled that amazingly. Painful to see racism here in this wonderful country of ours.— Mary Bank (@lilith7711) October 3, 2019
Respect earned..... that’s how to deal with racist idiots. You handled that with class and poise. Great job in showing what it’s like to be the better person.— Dave Mones (@OneEvenFlow) October 3, 2019
The thing is, Hamilton and Ottawa ranked 1st and 3rd respectively for cities with the most hate crimes reported in 2018.— Meagan Wiper 🌹🥚🥤🍊⚽☠️ (@MegW613) October 2, 2019
Does Quebec have a bigotry problem? Absolutely.
But we can't point fingers at Quebec while ignoring the riding tide of #WhiteSupremacy in our own provinces.
Singh won the hearts of many by handling the situation gracefully.
Handled with grace but some1where during the day the old man's comment of "I hope you win " got deleted. That comment adds to the discourse on racism.— Pucker (@Pucker32698414) October 2, 2019
More power to you Jagmeet! 100% support to anyone who has suffered racist attacks--this IS an attack. Diversity is strength. This is the shame of Quebec, & Bill 21 only compounds twisted attitudes like this. #diversity #Diversityisourstrength #Canada @theJagmeetSingh— Karim Mark Lediwa (@KarimLediwa) October 3, 2019
However, a section of Twitter users raised doubts over the video and called it a staged act to attract voters.
On a serious note... you planned that very well... oscar for best acting goes to Mr Jagmeet ... slow claps in the background 😂😂😂— Stewie 2.0 (@IndiaWalaStewie) October 3, 2019
A staged set up all the way. Clever NDP tactic positioning Jagmeet as the "not Trudeau" candidate.— John Camillo (@JohnCamillo) October 2, 2019
Earlier this year, legislation was passed to prohibit civil servants, teachers and police from wearing religious symbols like turbans, Kripans (sword) and Kadas (steel bracelets) at work.