Harman S. Pandher, Trustee, Burnaby Board of Education, writes how Late Jack Layton’s parting message inspired a whole new generation to take action and connected him to the New NDP leader Jagmeet Singh
On October 1, 2017, Jagmeet Singh was elected by New Democratic Party members across Canada to be the new leader of the NDP. In the process, Singh became the first person of colour to be named the leader of a major federal political party in Canadian history. And he joined Tommy Douglas and Jack Layton as the only NDP leaders to achieve first-ballot victories in a leadership race.
On September 21, 2017, I had the privilege of introducing Jagmeet Singh at a campaign event in Surrey, BC. Here is a transcript of my speech:
“A little over six years ago, on August 20, 2011, a man wrote and sent out a farewell letter to his dearest friends. Those “dear friends” were his fellow Canadians. And the letter writer was none other than the late Jack Layton.
Jack’s parting message has not only withstood the test of time, it’s inspired a whole new generation of socially conscious young Canadians to take action – with love, hope and optimism – and attempt to build a better Canada and a better world.
Two recipients of Jack’s letter, who were inspired by his words and example to enter the political arena themselves, are in the room today.
Jagmeet Singh was a 32-year-old activist defence lawyer from Brampton, who won a seat in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in October 2011, less than 2 months after Jack’s passing.
And I was a 34-year-old public school teacher from Burnaby, who won a seat on the Burnaby Board of Education a month later in November 2011.
We didn’t know each other at the time, and we were separated by some 4000 km between Burnaby and Brampton. Sure, Jagmeet and I share a common faith and mother language. (And an impeccable sense of style I might add.) But it’s the legacy of Jack Layton, the legacy of Tommy Douglas, and the social democratic values and ideals of the New Democratic Party of Canada that have brought us together tonight.
Sisters and brothers, tonight we are all united by one goal: to elect Jagmeet Singh the leader of the NDP and the next Prime Minister of Canada!
And like Jack said, “Don’t let them tell you, it can’t be done.”
Don’t let them tell you that Jagmeet and his team can’t possibly have brought 47,000 new members into our progressive movement.
Don’t let them tell you that Jagmeet can’t help Quebecers see past his turban to the man of courage, integrity, and compassion that he is inside.
Don’t let them tell you that Jagmeet can’t cross this vast country of ours from coast to coast to coast over the next two years and build a coalition of like-minded Canadians, who want nothing less than social, economic and environmental justice for all.
Don’t let them tell you that with Jagmeet as our leader, like Jack before him, we can’t connect to a whole new demographic of voters who’ve been ignored by, shut out of and turned off by the political process.
Don’t let them tell you that sitting in the House of Commons on Day 1 is more important than going out into communities day after day and standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.
Don’t let them tell you, sisters and brothers…
Don’t let them tell you that Canada isn’t ready.
Because guess what?
Ready or not, here he comes…”
With the announcement of the results on October 1st, Jagmeet Singh certainly did arrive – as did an important milestone in Canadian history.