Federal NDP leader would be comfortable with Quebec separation

October 11, 2017 2:26 pm

Campaigning in a byelection in Quebec Tuesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh suggested he would be comfortable if Quebecers decided to split from the rest of Canada.

Speaking to reporters in Alma, Quebec, in the riding of Lac-Saint-Jean where residents twice voted to separate by an almost three-to-one ratio during the 1995 referendum, Singh was asked what he would do if residents voted a third time to go.

"We will immediately help people," Singh started to say, before asking the reporter to repeat his question.

'I, personally, would love us to stay together'

"We will respect the decision of the people, without fault, without doubt, because it is a right that is so important, a human right. We are talking about the right of self-determination," he said. "I respect that right, I respect all human rights. I believe that we cannot choose between one right and another right.

"It is a right that is so fundamental and if people choose their future, I am completely in agreement with their decision. I, personally, would love us to stay together, but at the same time I respect the decision without fault."

Singh gave a similar answer during an NDP debate hosted by Huffington Post Canada before he was elected leader on Oct. 1.

"I am someone who supports the right of self-determination, so if a nation decides its future, it's up to us to respect it," he said.

Since the adoption of the Sherbrooke declaration in 2005, the NDP's official position is that it will recognize a winning referendum with a simple majority of 50 per cent plus one. Singh's comments seem to push that reflection further.

On Tuesday, local journalists were fascinated with Singh, his religion and his turban. They peppered him with questions, in French, which he responded to with patience and humour.

Singh said the byelection race in Lac-Saint-Jean, which is scheduled for Oct. 23, might not be the best barometer of his ability as a campaigner.

"If I had been elected before the byelection [was called], I could have really shown my capacity to campaign in this region, [but] I was only elected a week ago so it is difficult to show my capacity. That is the reality," he said, standing with the NDP's candidate Gisèle Dallaire.