While campaigning in a region of Quebec known as a sovereignist stronghold, newly elected NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he would respect the province’s right to separate if Quebecers voted in favour of it.
Singh made the comment Tuesday in Alma, Que., about 250 kilometres north of Quebec City.
It was Singh’s first foray into the province’s regions since he was elected. After shaking hands with supporters and sampling cheese curds and blueberry pie, Singh was asked, in French, what he would do if Quebec chose to separate from Canada.
He said that, personally, he would want the country to stay together, but he wouldn’t stand in the way if Quebecers voted for sovereignty.
“We will respect the decision of the people, without fail, without a doubt,” he said.
Singh said he considers self-determination to be a fundamental right, and he respects all rights equally.
Singh was in Alma alongside Gisèle Dallaire, who is running for the NDP in an Oct. 23 byelection in the Lac-Saint-Jean riding, left vacant by the departure of Conservative MP Denis Lebel.
Singh, who is Sikh and wears a turban in public, was also asked how he thought he’d be received by Quebecers who have largely supported a division between church and state.
He said he has been welcomed by those he has met so far and pointed out he also supports a division between church and state.
Singh said his goal is not to force Quebecers to accept his religion, but rather to prove he shares the same progressive, social democratic values they do.