Canada politician Jagmeet Singh reveals childhood sexual abuse

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The leader of Canada's federal New Democratic Party (NDP) Jagmeet SinghImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
The leader of Canada's federal New Democratic Party (NDP) Jagmeet Singh

The leader of Canada's New Democratic Party has said he was sexually abused by a taekwondo teacher as a child.

Jagmeet Singh, 40, revealed in a new memoir that he suffered the abuse during the 1980s while growing up in Windsor, Ontario.

The Sikh politician also openly addressed the racism and bullying he faced during his childhood.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised Mr Singh for his courage in speaking out.

Mr Singh is the first visible minority to lead a major federal party in the country.

In the memoir, Love and Courage, he describes the bullying he faced from other children growing up in the city west of Toronto because of his patka - a child's turban - and long hair.

An excerpt from the book, which was released on Tuesday, was published by the Toronto Star newspaper.

His concerned parents, who knew he was being bullied and was fighting with other children, enrolled him in taekwondo classes.

Mr Singh said the instructor - who he only refers to as Mr N - offered him personal classes at his home dojo. He said his instructor has since died.

The politician does not go into detail of the abuse but says it soon began to feel "normal".

"That's the thing about abuse - it can make the victim feel an overwhelming sense of shame, a shame so disabling that one suffers in silence," he writes.

"I told no one, and I told myself not to think about what had happened. In a way, I prevented myself from actually accepting the truth."

Mr Trudeau praised Mr Singh for his "courage to speak up will fight against stigma, and help so many people know they are not alone", when the excerpt was published.

In February, Mr Singh won a seat in Canada's House of Commons - a boost for his leadership in the run-up to the federal election scheduled for October.

The New Democratic Party is currently the third place party in Canada's Parliament, with 41 of 338 seats. The left-of-centre party has never held power.

It elected Mr Singh, a former criminal defence attorney and Ontario provincial politician, to lead the federal party in 2017.