OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday backed the leader of an opposition party who was ejected from the House of Commons for branding a member of another party a racist and refusing to apologize.
New Democratic Party head Jagmeet Singh, the first minority leader of a federal Canadian political party, had been trying to win support for a motion on Wednesday recognizing the existence of systemic racism in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
When a legislator from the Bloc Quebecois refused to support the motion, Singh called him racist, prompting the speaker to eject Singh for the rest of the day.
“It is important that we recognize when the only racialized leader in the House of Commons makes a statement like that, that it comes from a place that yes, will make people uncomfortable, but needs to be dealt with as we move forward as a country,” Trudeau told reporters.
Trudeau has frequently said there is a need to address systemic racism in Canada.
In a sometimes tearful address to reporters on Wednesday, Singh told reporters he had been angry and added: “In that moment, I saw the face of racism.”
Many Canadian cities have been the sites of anti-racism rallies in recent weeks, on the heels of similar protests in the United States.
Singh, a practicing Sikh who often pairs bright turbans with stylish suits, is a former criminal defense lawyer.
The Bloc said it had objected to Singh’s motion because the House of Commons public safety committee was already studying systemic racism in the police.
Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet demanded Singh apologize for making what he called unwarranted accusations.
Canada is a multicultural country, with more than 22% of the population is made up of minorities and another 5% aboriginal, according to the latest census.
(Additional reporting by Denny Thomas in Toronto; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Dan Grebler)