Jagmeet Singh hopes people learn to tell Sikh politicians apart

The NDP leader and Burnaby South MP was mistaken for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in a photo attached to a Canadian Press story over the weekend

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh laughed off a photo blunder that mistook himself for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, while acknowledging the mistake likely wouldn’t have occurred for two white members of Parliament.

A photo of Sajjan was attached to a story on a year-end CP interview with Singh, who is also the MP for Burnaby South.

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The mistake came on the part of the Canadian Press wire service, and the CP photo desk Twitter account apologized over the weekend. But the incident gained wide attention from its publication on Sault Ste. Marie news outlet SaultOnline, which issued its own apology.

In a tongue-in-cheek tweet over the weekend, Singh asked what was wrong with the story. He added that the article itself was accurate, something he repeated at a holiday open house in his Kingsway constituency office, while laughing off the incident.

harjit sajjan tweet
This now-deleted tweet from SaultOnline mistakenly shows an image of Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan instead of NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, a mistake by the Canadian Press wire service. - Twitter/Screengrab

“The point of the article is that my goal is not to tear down government – I’m trying to push the Liberals to do what’s right – and that I wouldn’t be working with the Conservatives to topple the government,” Singh told the NOW.

Singh said he believes a lot of people “get typecast, and people don’t appreciate the differences.”

“In this case, I’m hoping people will finally realize that I’m not the defence minister or the minister for innovation,” he said, referencing, respectively, Sajjan and Navdeep Bains, both of whom are Sikhs who wear turbans.

Asked whether he believed the same mistake would have happened involving, for instance, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, Singh said likely not.

“This is a bit of a problem. We’ve got to make sure we can tell people apart and particularly the leader of one party versus the minister of the other party,” Singh said.

In a speech to a packed room, Singh repeated the message of the article.

“The Liberals, the government right now, can choose to work with any party; it’s up to them where they choose to work with. But I set out something really clear: My goal isn’t to just make the government stay in power,” Singh told the crowd.

“If they want to do something meaningful that’s going to make people’s lives better, then I’m there. I’m here for that. If we’re going to put in place a better solution to solve the housing crisis, I’m there for that. If we’re going to fight for better child care, I’m there for that.”

Singh said his key issues he expects to push the Liberals on next year are housing affordability, pharmacare and dental care, child care and the climate crisis.

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