Last Thursday night, Jagmeet Singh became the fourth and final party leader to appear on The National’s Face to Face series on the CBC. Each episode of the four-part series allowed five undecided voters five minutes each in order to “grill” the respective candidate. The questions given to Singh dealt with a wide-range of issues, including the NDP’s promise to implement a national child care plan, Singh’s fitness as leader of the party, and digital competitiveness within Canada. Singh was able to answer most of the questions well, although some of the undecided voters seemed less than convinced at times. But one question, far more than the others, stuck out to those of us concerned about the West’s destructive role in the world, specifically Canada’s part in Saudi Arabia’s continuous crimes against humanity.
The question for Singh came from a woman who had originally immigrated from Sudan, and had just recently become a Canadian citizen. She was concerned about the NDP leader’s vision for representing Canada on the international stage. She mentioned in particular Singh’s plan to cancel the 15-billion dollar Saudi arms deal approved by Justin Trudeau and the Liberal government in 2016, which had previously been signed by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The woman—who it should be noted did not in anyway appear sympathetic to the Saudi government—was worried about the potential future prime minister’s strategy for dealing with the very likely economic and political retaliation to Canada from Saudi Arabia and its allies for reneging on its contract with the oil-rich nation. However, Singh pointed out that there was no choice but to cancel the contract, seeing that the Saudi government continues to have an abysmal human rights record at home, is currently waging war on the people of Yemen, and had infamously murdered dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its embassy in Istanbul. Yet Singh could not provide a satisfactory answer as to how he would deal with potential retaliation from the Gulf state for Canada’s breaking of the contract.
But there is a good reason as to why Singh could not present a plan for how he would deal with a possible reprisal from Saudi Arabia or its allies, and that is because there is nothing he, nor any other Canadian leader, could do about it, besides, of course, remaining loyal to the contract, and therefore continuing to sell Saudi Arabia arms that can, and likely have already, been used against innocent civilians. This is because the Saudi regime has always been the darling of the West, despite the fact that it practices and actively promotes, both financially and militarily, the Wahhabi brand of Islam, which is the driving force behind terror in the name of the Muslim faith throughout the world.
Should then Canada bow the knee to a tyrannical government, and continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia to murder innocent men, women, and children in Yemen and religious minorities within its own borders? Should Singh honour a contract agreed upon by two Canadian prime ministers, Harper and Trudeau—two men who were, and continue to be, more interested in serving themselves than in serving humanity? Of course not. Singh’s approach to the Saudi arms deal is the only approach a conscientious leader can have: you do what is morally right and you let the cards fall where they may. In fact, as I was listening to the voter’s question and Singh’s response, I kept hearing in my mind over and over again the words of the American Muslim scholar Imam Zaid Shakir on his nation’s role in the Saudi war on the Yemenis.
The economics of war… [Donald Trump said] we are selling weapons to the Saudis to bomb the Yemenis, because it means American jobs. Honest and straight up. So we should say: ‘If it means American jobs, I will eat grass! I will be unemployed, I will live in a tent, before I work in a job making a bomb to kill innocent children half-way around the world. So I can have a job… To Hell with your job!’ That is the spirit we have to have, because powerful forces align against us. ‘Us’–meaning innocent humanity. So we have to push back with power: To Hell with your job! To Hell with your bombs! To Hell with your bombers, your fighter jets, and your nuclear submarines! Take it to Hell with you, because if you don’t repent that is where you are going.Source: MEMRI
Well, of course, politicians are expected to be much more “polite” than the good imam was here, but I nearly felt as if Singh was thinking something quite similar. He almost could not comprehend how somebody could concern themselves with potential economic and political retaliation against Canada for doing what is so clearly the right thing. And that right there is a great testimony to the character of Jagmeet Singh. For he is unwilling to allow the blood of innocent people to continue to stain Canada’s hands, no matter what the price.