Jagmeet Singh is a Canadian lawyer-turned-politician who came into the limelight in 2017 when he was elected as the Leader of the New Democratic Party, making him the first non-white leader of a major political party in Canada. He is a practising Sikh of Punjabi descent. He served as a Member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament for Bramalea—Gore—Malton (2011-2017) and became a Member of Parliament for Burnaby South on 25 February 2019.
Jagmeet Singh Jimmy Dhaliwal Law Society of Ontario was born on Tuesday, 2 January 1979 (age 44 years; as of 2023) in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. His zodiac sign is Capricorn.
He grew up in St. John’s and Grand Falls-Windsor, both in Newfoundland and Labrador. Living in Villa Borghese, Windsor, he went to Oakwood School. All of the Sikh kids had been given English names by their parents, so they could fit in better at school. Jagmeet was called Jimmy, but when he was eight years old, he decided to stop cutting his hair and use his real name to respect his heritage and family. He took the decision to embrace his cultural roots. Toronto Life
It was Jagmeet’s mother, Harmeet, who helped him grow spiritually. She would share stories about Sikh history and philosophy. When Singh decided to stop cutting his hair, he faced racism growing up for being a brown guy with a strange name and wearing headgear. While talking about the same in an interview, he said,
I faced some significant racism as a kid growing up with a unique identity—you know, brown skin, long hair for a boy, with a funny sounding first name like Jagmeet, while going through childhood in a small Canadian city with little diversity. But because of having to deal with racism myself, I became very sensitive to unfairness.”
He picked up fights at school as he was bullied by his classmates. As mistreatment became severe, his parents took him out of his old school and enrolled him in Detroit Country Day School in Beverly Hills, Michigan, which attended from the sixth grade through twelfth grade. Watching him struggle, his parents enrolled him in a martial arts class, where he could develop confidence and learn self-defence. He tried a number of sports including skiing, horseback riding, martial arts, tennis, golf, hockey, and soccer, but he grew fond of MMA.
While talking about the same in an interview, he said,
I started martial arts when I was about nine-years old and have been training in one form or another ever since. I started off with Taekwondo and some Akido. I did a lot of wrestling in high school. Later on I did traditional boxing and Muay Thai. I did a lot of striking, but my speciality was grappling so fighting around wrestling, Jiu Jitsu, and Judo was my main focus.”
At the age of 10, he was sexually abused by his taekwondo coach. CBC News The coach realised Singh’s dedication to the sport and singled him out for extra training at his home through a special program, where he assaulted him. However, he didn’t tell his parents about it until he was 25 and publically disclosed it in his book Love & Courage: My Story of Family, Resilience, and Overcoming the Unexpected many years later. He captained his high school wrestling team and also went on to win the Toronto championship in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
He pursued a Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Western Ontario, completing it in 2001. He studied biology with the aspiration of becoming a doctor like his father. However, by the end of his undergrad program, he took an elective on the philosophy of law. His professor recognized his aptitude for the subject and motivated him to consider a career in law. Therefore, in 2002, he enrolled in York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, where he pursued a Bachelor of Laws degree. Toronto Life During his formative years, he actively worked on spreading awareness on various issues. He would protest against tuition hikes, fight discrimination, and join anti-poverty and advocacy groups to help refugees and immigrants exercise their rights. He decided to enter criminal law after he sat in on a trial where the defence was cross-examining a cop for stopping a young black man. It was his family and friends, which included his brother Gurratan Singh and friend Amneet Singh, who encouraged him to run for political office.
Hair Colour: Salt & Pepper
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
His father, Jagtaran Singh Dhaliwal, is a psychiatrist. He moved to moved to Scarborough from India in 1977. He was a medical resident at the Waterford Hospital in the 1980s. He used to study to become a psychiatrist, working night shifts as a security guard. In his biographical book, Jagmeet revealed that during his childhood his father suffered from alcoholism. CBC NewsHis mother, Harmeet Kaur, worked as a teacher.
He has two younger siblings, a brother, Gurratan Singh, and a sister, Manjot, who were both born during the family’s time in Newfoundland. Gurratan Singh, five years younger than Jagmeet, is also a politician who was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the 2018 Ontario election, representing the riding of Brampton East. Manjot is a stay-at-home mom in the U.K.
Wife & Children
On 22 February 2018, he got married to Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu, a fashion designer and co-founder of the Punjabi clothing line Jangiiro, which she runs with her sister. Gurkiran is 11 years younger than Jagmeet. Together, they have a daughter, Anhad Kaur (born on 3 January 2022).
His paternal great-grandfather, Seva Singh Thikriwala, was a prominent figure among revolutionaries who fought against the British for Indian independence. He passed away in jail in 1935 while refusing to eat in protest against the mistreatment of political prisoners. His maternal great-grandfather, Hira Singh, served in World War I and II under the British.
Jagmeet Singh and Gurkiran Kaur met in 2010 when Singh gave a seminar at York University, where Kaur was studying business. Soon, they became friends and went on their first date in 2011. They made their relationship official in 2017. Jagmeet proposed to Gurkiran at Vegetarian Haven in Baldwin Village, the site of their first date.
He belongs to a Jatt Sikh family. However, he chose not to display his surname, Dhaliwal, as it indicates that he belongs to the upper-class community of landowning farmers in Punjab. He advocates equality and passionately opposes the concept of untouchables in the caste-ridden Hindu society of India. The Georgia Straight
After graduation, Singh became a criminal defence lawyer and landed a job with a prestigious Toronto firm, Pinkofskys, which later became Rusonik O’Connor. Later, he opened his own practice, Dhaliwal Law, with his brother Gurratan. In March 2011, Singh ventured into politics and ran as the NDP candidate for the federal riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton, but he was defeated by Conservative candidate Bal Gosal by 539 votes.
2011 Ontario Provincial Election
Then, Singh ran in the 2011 Ontario provincial election as the NDP candidate for the provincial riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton. He won by defeating Liberal incumbent Kuldip Kular by 2,277 votes. Singh became the first New Democrat to win in the Peel Region, as well as the first turban-wearing MPP. He served as a Member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament for Bramalea—Gore—Malton from 6 October 2011 to 20 October 2017
In the 40th Parliament of Ontario, Singh was appointed as the NDP critic for the attorney general and consumer services portfolios. In 2014, Singh ran for re-election and won his riding with 43.6 percent of the votes, defeating the Liberal challenger Kuldip Kular, whom Singh had also defeated in 2011. In 2015, he became deputy leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party, serving under party leader Andrea Horwath until 2017.
2017 New Democratic Party Leadership Election
Singh moved to federal politics in 2017, successfully running to replace NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. On 15 May 2017, he announced his intention to run for the leadership of the New Democratic Party of Canada at a campaign launch in Brampton. Several days before the leadership vote, his popularity skyrocketed when a video of an angry woman confronting him about Shariah law went viral. Singh was at a rec centre in Brampton, hosting one of his regular events, also known as JagMeet and Greets when a woman named Jennifer Bush approached him and said,
We know you’re in bed with Sharia!… We know you’re in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood! We know by your votes!”
Although Singh is Sikh and not Muslim, she didn’t stop. She tried to pick up a fight with Jagmeet, but he maintained his composure and instead emphasized the importance of love. On 1 October 2017, Singh hit the headlines when he was elected leader of the federal NDP in the leadership elections with 53.8 percent of the vote (35,266 votes). Charlie Angus, a member of Parliament from northwestern Ontario, finished second with about one-third the votes that Singh received. He became the first person of a visible minority group to lead a major federal political party in Canada, and the second overall after the Bloc Québécois’s former interim leader Vivian Barbot. He resigned his seat in the Ontario legislature after winning federal NDP leadership. He served as his party’s leader without a seat in the House of Commons for over a year.
2019 Burnaby South By-election
On 25 February 2019, he won the by-election held in the federal riding of Burnaby South, with 38.9 per cent of the vote. A by-election was declared on the federal riding when Kennedy Stewart resigned in order to make an ultimately successful bid for Mayor of Vancouver.
2019 Federal Election
While Singh was re-elected to the Burnaby South riding on 21 October 2019, the NDP won 24 seats. This was the party’s worst result 2004 Canadian federal election. The NDP lost almost all their seats in Quebec, and it was speculated that Singh’s Sikh faith may have been viewed negatively by voters, especially considering Quebec’s ban on religious symbols. Nonetheless, the incumbent Trudeau Liberal government failed to retain its majority, therefore NDP shared the balance of power in Parliament. On 17 June 2020, Singh was removed from the House of Commons for the rest of the day after he called Bloc Québécois MP Alain Therrien a “racist” and refused to apologize. Therrien had denied the approval needed for a motion calling out systemic racism in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). He was the sole member to prevent unanimous consent on the second motion.
2021 Federal Election
In the 2021 federal election, the New Democratic Party led by Jagmeet Singh won 25 seats, a net increase of one seat, but nonetheless fell short of expectations. Singh was re-elected with a comfortable majority of slightly more than 4,000 votes to serve in Burnaby-South.
He strongly advocated for a religious exemption for turbaned Sikhs from helmet laws while riding a motorcycle. The headgear is a very important part of his Sikh identity, and he even made a YouTube tutorial on tying a turban. In 2013, he was denied a visa to visit India. He was supposed to visit Amritsar for an awards ceremony by two NGOs which had selected him for the Sikh of the Year Award. According to Singh, the Indian government was apparently annoyed with him for raising his voice for justice for victims of the anti-Sikh riots of November 1984. He had promoted that the events of 1984 were not riots between two communities but a massacre sponsored by the Congress government. The Times of India His efforts have led the Ontario legislature to acknowledge the anti-Sikh violence as “genocide.” His activism extends beyond his own community. He has been advocating for Muslims, indigenous groups, women, and the LGBT community. Singh has been a strong advocate for a national ban on carding, saying that it is a type of systemic racism. He has consistently criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for his anti-immigrant rhetoric without holding back.
- Novel: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
- Hip-hop Artists: Common, Dead Prez
- Food: Rajma Chawal
- Apart from politics, Singh is known for his fashion sense. In 2015, Buzzfeed referred to him as “The Most Stylish Politician In Canada By Like A Million Kilometres.” While talking about how his personal style became a part of his political style in an interview, he said,
So throughout my life, I realized that people would stare at me because I stood out…Being stared at makes you feel self-conscious. I felt that if people are going to stare at me, I might as well give them something to look at…A beard and a turban sometimes conjure up negative associations, but if you see someone with a lime colored, bright orange, or pink turban, it disarms people’s stereotypical notions of this image and it disarms people from those stereotypes…Because I was considered stylish, with these colorful turbans and well-cut suits and showing myself as confident person, I could use that as a tool to talk about things like unfairness, injustice, poverty, and inequality in the public sphere.”
- Singh has come under public scrutiny numerous times. He said he would support Quebec separating from Canada if the people there voted for it, which was a strange idea for someone who wanted to lead the country.
- During an interview, Singh expressed doubts about the findings of the 18-month investigation into the 1985 Air India Flight 182 bombing, which resulted in the deaths of 329 people, including 268 Canadians. The inquiry pointed to Talwinder Singh Parmar as the main terrorist behind the bombing. Various Canadian Sikhs honoured Parmar as a martyr. When CBC interviewer Terry Milewski asked him to denounce the followers of Talwinder Singh Parmar, Singh said he didn’t know who was responsible for the attack. His unclear response received widespread criticism. However, on 18 March 2018, a day after a video of Singh speaking at a 2015 rally in San Francisco where Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, often labelled as a terrorist, was celebrated as a martyr, Singh changed his stance. CBC News
- He is an an avid MMA fan.
- He can speak English, French, and Punjabi.
- He authored the book Love & Courage: My Story of Family, Resilience, and Overcoming the Unexpected.
- He is only the third person to win NDP’s leadership on the first ballot, after New Democrat leaders Jack Layton and Tommy Douglas.
- An avid cyclist, he owns six designer bicycles. He used to carry a fold-up bike in the trunk of his sporty red BMW M Coupe.
- The World Sikh Organization of Canada recognized Singh in their 2012 list of distinguished individuals for the first turbaned Sikh MPP in Ontario.
- In November 2017, he appeared in an episode of the TVOntario series Political Blind Date. On the TV programme, Singh was paired with former Toronto City Councillor Doug Ford. They checked out different types of transportation. Singh took Ford on a bicycle ride in downtown Toronto, and Ford drove Singh on the streetcar route on St. Clair Avenue.