Politicians judged by company they keep

(This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun)

By: Candice Malcolm

Many activists are angry over recent reports about NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and his affiliations with Sikh separatists who advocate for violence in pursuit of an independent Sikh ethno-state.

These activists claim there is a double standard, that Singh is being held to higher expectations than other federal party leaders and that Singh is getting lumped in with radicals because he shares the same faith.

“More guilt-by-association in Canadian media against Sikhs. Getting ridiculous now,” wrote British journalist Sunny Hundal over the weekend.

Hundal was referring to reports that Singh spoke at a separatist rally, and shared a stage with a speaker advocating for violence. The rally featured posters of Sikh militants who called for violence and were responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths.

Metro News national columnist Vicky Mochama went even further, stating “journalists, editors and pundits continue to conflate community advocacy with extremist violence. It is dangerous and racist.”

But neither Hundal nor Mochama can point to any concrete examples of Canadian journalists conflating peaceful Sikhs with those calling for violence. The only times these two groups have been lumped together is when they literally share a stage, or when activists claim to be peaceful, while simultaneously promoting images of militants and murderers.

As for the claim of “guilt-by-association” against Jagmeet Singh: welcome to politics.

Voters have every right to judge politicians by the company they keep. It’s not only reasonable, it’s necessary. We need to know who will be close to power if a politician wins an election. Who will be advising them, who will they appoint to key government positions?

Jagmeet Singh isn’t being mistreated. In fact, he’s getting the kid-glove treatment because journalists are worried they’ll be called racist if they question his relationship with extremists.

For comparison, look at the treatment of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and repeated attempts in the media to tie him to right-wing extremism.

Last summer, a reporter for Rebel Media went to an alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Va. ― a rally that featured neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The reporter, Faith Goldy, went against the wishes of her editor at the Rebel, and was consequently fired from the start-up media organization.

The alt-right rally was distinctly anti-Semitic and speakers advocated for an ethno-state for white Christians in North America.

Rebel Media founder and boss Ezra Levant, who is Jewish, put out a statement condemning the alt-right, and distancing his media organization from that movement.

Yet, many news outlets in Canada, most prominently the CBC, tried to tie Scheer to the racist rally simply because months earlier Scheer had been interviewed by the Rebel.

Talk about guilt-by-association. In this case, the association was twice removed ― from Scheer, to the fired Rebel reporter, to Charlottesville.

Imagine if a Canadian politician had gone to the Charlottesville rally, and shared a stage with despicable alt-right speakers calling for violence and promoting white Christian nationalism. Then imagine that politician saying he would continue to attend alt-right rallies to reach more disaffected people in the white nationalist community.

That, in a nutshell, is what Jagmeet Singh has done. He spoke at a Sikh nationalist event, organized to promote a Sikh ethno-state and shared a stage with people calling for violence. Then he said he’ll do it again.

There is a double standard at play here. If a Canadian politician had given a speech in Charlottesville, his...(READ MORE)