Trudeau supports opposition head expelled from Parliament over racism row

Montreal (AFP) –


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday stood behind the leader of an opposition party who had been temporarily thrown out of Parliament for accusing another member of racism.

Head of the New Democratic Party (NDP) Jagmeet Singh, who is Sikh, is the first member of a minority to lead a federal political party in Canada.

On Wednesday, he clashed with a member of the separatist Bloc Quebecois party who refused to sign onto an NDP motion to recogize systemic racism in the federal police force.

"It is disappointing that the Bloc Quebecois continues to refuse to accept that systemic discrimination, systemic racism exists within our country, in every part of our country and in all our institutions," Trudeau said during his daily press conference. "Recognizing systemic discrimination is the important first step towards being able to address it."

"There are conversations that have to happen if we want to move forward as a country," he said, claiming it was not his place to criticize a racial minority's expression of a "lived reality" of racism.

The Bloc Quebecois's Alain Therrien had refused to sign onto the NDP motion, and after a heated exchange, Singh accused Therrien of being racist.

Singh refused to apologize and was temporarily removed from the chamber.

Bloc Quebecois party head Yves-Marie Blanchet defended Therrien and demanded sanctions against Singh.

"I hope that the leader of the NDP will apologize sincerely, and if not, I hope the president of the House of Commons will be quite severe," she said. "Because if the only penalty is not being allowed to be in the room for one day or to not be allowed to speak for one day, everybody will feel entitled to do the same."

The NPD is the fourth-biggest political party in the country with 24 seats out of the 338 in the House of Commons, while the Bloc Quebecois has 32.

The feud comes as Canadians have joined worldwide protests against systemic racism and police violence following the police killing of black American man George Floyd last month.