NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who revealed that he was sexually abused as a boy, talks about his incredibly journey to politics in his new book “Love & Courage”.
OTTAWA – Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh showed incredible strength and courage in speaking publicly for the first time about being sexually abused as a child, in the hope sharing his experience will help others.
In his new memoir, “Love & Courage: My Story of Family, Resilience, and Overcoming the Unexpected”, released Tuesday, Singh opens up about his experiences growing up Sikh and the bullying he faced as a result, his relationship with his father, and the abuse he faced at the hands of a tae kwon do instructor.
In the book, Singh alleges that his martial arts instructor assaulted him around the age of 10, when he would go to the man’s house for “special training.” The instructor, now dead, was never charged and Singh says that not speaking up about his experience sooner is one of his “biggest regrets,” because if he had come forward it may have prevented someone else from being hurt by the coach, referred to in the book as “Mr. N.”
In an interview on CTV’s Your Morning, Singh said that part of his healing process has been coming to terms with the abuse and understanding that it was not his fault. He said that now that he has the platform as a federal party leader, he wants to take the opportunity to try to “do some good.”
“I feel like this book will help people out,” Singh said.
The title of the book is also one of his key campaign slogans. “Love and courage” has been tied to Singh since he used that phrase to shut down a heckler who got in his face at a 2017 leadership campaign event. Instead of confronting the woman, he spoke over her to the crowd saying: “What do we believe in? Love and courage.”
Singh also goes into detail in the book about his father’s alcoholism and journey to recovery. Singh said there was a time when he couldn’t imagine being in the positive place that he is in with his father now. Writing about this experience helped the two of them heal, though seeing the experiences from his son’s perspective put to paper was “a bit of a gut punch,” said Singh.
Singh also writes about his decision to grow his hair and wrap it in a patka, and go by “Jagmeet” instead of “Jimmy,” around the age of seven. Both changes prompted bullying from classmates, and Singh said he couldn’t pin down exactly why he made that choice as a child, but he is glad that he did.
As the first visible minority federal leader in the House of Commons, Singh has made history and said that he hopes that sharing more of his personal story will inspire other kids who have felt different or discriminated against to also push the boundaries of what’s possible.
“I am hoping that by breaking barriers myself, I can inspire a whole new generation of people to think ‘you know what, maybe I can, not just run a country, maybe I could start a company, maybe I could do something in my own local community to make a positive change,’” Singh said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commended Singh’s courage in telling his story, tweeting over the weekend that the NDP leader was helping to “fight against stigma.”
During his time as NDP leader, Singh has spoken out about the importance of believing survivors, and also addressed allegations of sexual misconduct and abuses of power within his own party.
In 2018, Saskatchewan MP Erin Weir was investigated over claims of sexual harassment. A third-party investigator found evidence to sustain one claim of harassment and three claims of sexual harassment.
Following the findings, Singh said that he had been willing to consider rehabilitative approaches if the Regina-Lewvan MP took full responsibility, but that public comments made by Weir meant that was “no longer possible.”
He expelled Weir from the NDP caucus on May 2, 2018.
The following week, he ordered another investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and abuse of authority against Quebec MP Christine Moore. She was cleared of all allegations in July.
With a federal election in the fall, the NDP is trailing the Liberals and Conservatives, but Singh said he hopes Canadians can put their faith in him to find “a new path.”
“I have experienced things that I think many Canadians have gone through — the feeling of not belonging, the feeling of being a victim, of being hurt, being marginalized.”
Singh said he wants to galvanize not just the left, but all Canadians.
“I hope that I can find the common thread that connects us all and say: We can build a better Canada together.”