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Canadian politician Jagmeet Singh was ejected from the country’s parliament for the day after calling another politician a ‘racist.’
Singh, who heads the left-leaning New Democratic Party, was booted from the House of Commons for the day Wednesday after making the accusation against Alain Therrien, a member of the Bloc Québécois party.
Therrien had opposed a motion to acknowledge systemic racism in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The motion, according to portions read aloud by Singh, asked for a review of the law enforcement body’s budget and release of use-of-force reports. The motion also made mentions of “several Indigenous people have died at the hands of the RCMP in recent months.”
Singh said he was shocked by the “no” vote and that he looked back at Therrien when he heard the politician voice his opposition.
“I looked back and saw that MP not only say, ‘no’ but make eye contact with me and just kind of brush his hand. Dismiss it.” Singh told reporters after he was made to leave. “In that moment, I got angry.”
Immediately after the vote Singh clarified for House of Commons leadership that he had called Therrien “a racist and I believe that’s so.” Singh also said he would not apologize. Speaker Anthony Rota then expelled Singh from the body for the rest of the day.
Singh, who is Sikh and the first racial minority leader of a federal political party, remained unapologetic even after being booted.
“In that gesture, I saw exactly what has happened for so long. People see racism as not a big deal, see systemic racism and the killing of indigenous people as not a big deal, see black people being the subject of violence and being killed as not a big deal, and in the moment I saw the face of racism, ” Singh said.
On Thursday, the CBC reports, Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet defended his party member’s action, denying that Therrien made the gesture Singh described. Blanchet also demanded that Singh apologize to his party and said Rota should impose a “severe” punishment if Singh refuses.
“He’s not a racist. He loves everyone,” Blanchet said.
But Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau backed Singh on Thursday.
“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.