Jagmeet Singh, the first turban-wearing Sikh to sit in Ontario’s legislature, will now lead a federal political party with his victory in the NDP leadership race on Sunday.
Singh, 38, won on the first ballot Sunday, taking 53 per cent of the vote to top MPs Charlie Angus, Niki Ashton and Guy Caron.
Singh has represented the riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton at Queen’s Park since 2011. The unmarried MPP served as the Ontario NDP party’s critic for justice and consumer services before party leader Andrea Horwath named him her deputy in 2015.
A criminal defence lawyer who speaks fluent French and Punjabi, Singh was born in Scarborough, Ont., in 1979.
Singh was raised in Newfoundland and Labrador while his father, who trained as a psychiatrist in India, attended medical school there and worked as a security guard before he could practise in Canada.
His family moved to Windsor, Ont., when he was seven years old.
Learning to fight
Singh says he was bullied as a youngster and took up martial arts to defend himself, going on to captain his high school wrestling team and winning the Toronto championships in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
He got a law degree from Osgoode Hall in Toronto and practised as a criminal defence lawyer. His brother, Gurratan Singh, now runs their firm.
Singh’s passion for fashion caught the attention of GQ magazine earlier this year, which described him as “the incredibly well-dressed rising star in Canadian politics.” In the magazine’s profile of him, Singh said his personal style is an extension of his political platform.
Singh explained at the time that his style shows his confidence which can help disarm stereotypes about people wearing turbans and long beards.
Among the issues Singh has worked on at Queen’s Park is the controversial police practice of carding — stopping people on the street and demanding identification. Singh, who said he’s been carded 10 times, pushed for a ban. The Ontario government outlawed arbitrary street checks last year.
He also advocated for limits on fees to transfer money overseas and for a religious exemption for Sikhs from motorcycle helmet laws.
Entering the federal fray
When he launched his campaign for the federal leadership at the same banquet hall in Brampton, west of Toronto, where he celebrated his first election victory in 2011, Singh told the crowd that his party and the country are hungry for new leadership.
“Leadership that will bring people together, to build a Canada that is truly inclusive and where everyone can realize their dreams,” Singh said at the time.
Singh has said that he would not immediately seek a seat in the House of Commons until he had time to help increase his profile outside of the House.