Is the media ignoring Jagmeet Singh’s allegations of abuse?

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Pradip Rodrigues

Last Tuesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh launched his recently published memoir Love & Courage: My Story of Family, Resilience and Overcoming the Unexpected. In that memoir he dropped a bombshell- in addition to being verbally and physically abused growing up in Windsor, Ontario, he was also sexually abused by a taekwondo coach when he was 10 years old! I bet no one saw that coming because that revelation received more or less a muted reaction from the media and a large section of Canadians. That strikes me as odd, troubling even, here is the leader of the federal NDP, potentially the next Canadian Prime Minister making grave allegations of sexual abuse against a now deceased taekwondo coach, that too in the #MeToo era and no one wants to get to the bottom of this sordid story. Many commentators have weakly come out commending his bravery, however some of Singh’s critics cynically wonder if this was a ploy to gain sympathy, attention and votes just months before the federal elections. Fair enough question, but I wonder how the media would have reacted if similar claims were to have been made by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer or PM Justin Trudeau.

If for example Andrew Scheer were to claim being sexually abused by a coach, school teacher or neighbour, the media would have descended upon his old neighborhood in Ottawa interviewing former students, teachers and neighbors who knew Scheer and would have by now unearthed the name of the offending taekwondo coach and quite possibly a few other students who may have been his victims.

If Scheer claimed he was verbally and physically abused and bullied because he was a staunch Christian believer who publicly prayed on the playground before a game, you can be quite sure the media would demand more proof and there would be investigative journalists with liberal leanings who would want to get down to the bottom of it and ascertain if crafty Scheer was being honest.
But in the case of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, the reaction thus far has been, well, disappointingly indifferent.

If Singh was a leader of a national political party in the US, these allegations would have made headlines for days and possibly weeks. They would demand proof of abuse, names and time frames.
I don’t know about most Canadians, but after hearing how Mr. Singh was treated as a young man growing up in Windsor, I would think twice before ever re-locating there. Racism happens everywhere but if everything Jagmeet Singh says about his experiences in Windsor is true, then I shudder at the thought and wouldn’t wish such treatment for even my worst enemy.

Singh who is well-known for his battle for human rights and justice for Sikh victims of pogrom and riots following the storming of the Golden Temple by Indian armed forces in 1984 has never shied away from taking on Indian political leaders and holding them accountable but when it came to holding his taekwondo coach accountable for sexual abuse, it was hard until now. In an interview recently he said: “I regret that I didn’t come forward (about) and maybe help other people have the courage to come forward if that’s right for them, but most importantly, to have people heal, for them to know it’s not their fault.”

I am not sure why Canadians by and large seem to have moved on from Singh’s allegations, there doesn’t seem to be much of an uproar from the community either. Perhaps it may have to do with the fact that Singh is male, an ethnic minority and since he hasn’t named names, the media has chosen simply to treat this as a story of bravery and courage without really going into the details of such serious allegations.

This story which I thought should have dominated national headlines has not gained traction. If Singh’s version of events were taken more seriously by the mainstream, we’d hear more about it. News outlets would be running features on racism, bullying and sexual abuse that happens to new immigrants and brown kids. But instead, the story has moved to whether the NDP and Green Party should merge. There is even talk of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh playing the role of King maker. -CINEWS

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