brian lilley twitter

Toronto columnist slammed as racist over comment on Jagmeet Singh's yellow turban

This week in news of conservative commentators using Twitter to enrage Canadians, we have Toronto Sun political columnist Brian Lilley with an offensive quip about the colour of federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh's turban.

The tweet in question, initially fired off on Wednesday during a parliamentary committee meeting on food price inflation, featured a photo of Singh speaking in the House of Commons.

Singh, who is Sikh and has been known to wear turbans of many different colours throughout his years in office, can be seen in the photo wearing a tightly-wrapped yellow headpiece.

"Jagmeet looks like he wore his No Name turban today just to grill Galen Weston at committee," wrote Lilley when publishing the (since-deleted) tweet around 5:20 p.m. on March 8. "I know he changes the colours for special days or occasions but didn't expect to see No Name yellow today. Is it on purpose or a coincidence?"

For the uninitiated, Lilley was referring to the signature yellow branding used by the 'No Name' brand products owned by Loblaw Companies Ltd., which Weston was representing at the committee on Wednesday in his capacity as the grocery giant's CEO and chairman.

The suggestion that Singh had chosen the colour of his turban to antagonize or somehow otherwise influence an inquiry witness, or that he'd actually purchased the garment at a Loblaw-owned company, rubbed many the wrong way.

"This sure sounds racist. Is that on purpose or a coincidence?" fired back Deputy NDP Leader Sarah Hoffman in one of the more popular replies to Lilley's tweet.

"This is what racism sounds like," wrote Dragons Den star Arlene Dickinson similarly. "Brian Lilley focusing on someone's religious attire or any attire is pathetically inappropriate and bigoted and he should apologize.

"I've never accused Brian Lilley of being a journalist, but this brazen display of racism from a media member needs to be censured," reads another popular response. 

"As a Brown man in politics, I have a lot of admiration for the work of Jagmeet Singh in the face of systemic racism. Brian Lilley can fuck off."

Several Canadian journalists publicly decried the tweet, replying to Lilley with comments like "OFFSIDE," "Do Better" and "This is low. Even for you."

"Brian! It's totally inappropriate to mock the religious article of faith," replied Calgary-based news director Rishi Kumar Nagar to Lilley's offensive tweet. "Please delete it!"

Thousands upon thousands of Canadians, including politicians from all levels of government, likewise spoke out about Lilley's tweet in the two days before it was deleted. By the time the post came down on Friday afternoon, it had been viewed at least 2.9 million times.

Lilley, a longtime political columnist for the Toronto Sun and who is currently in a relationship with Doug Ford's Deputy Chief of Staff, took down his tweet after just under 48 hours of backlash.

"I have deleted a previous tweet that has caused controversy and been seen as insensitive. That was not the intent and I apologize to those who I offended. The tweet has therefore been deleted," he wrote in a statement posted to his own profile at 3:20 p.m. on Friday, while his name was trending.

Nobody liked that.

Lilley's fans are chiding the columnist for bowing to the "woke mob" by deleting a tweet that they did not personally find offensive, while critics are saying an apology isn't enough. They want Lilley to lose his job.

Singh himself addressed the controversy publicly not long after Lilley's tweet had been erased, writing on Friday evening:

"I've had lots of great conversations about why I wear a turban and what it means. But some people try to make us feel less than. I think of how that hurts kids especially. To them I say: Be who you are. Have pride in all you bring to the table. You belong."

As this Twitter drama dies down, some might say that our attentions are better turned toward the parliamentary committee meeting that birthed Lilley's dumb tweet about Weston's No Name brand in the first place.

"I don't think it should ever be okay — that in Canada Loblaws earned $520 million in Q4 profits while Canadians turned to food banks in record numbers," said Singh on Wednesday ahead of the hearing.

"Today, CEOs like Galen Weston have been summoned to Parliament – they'll be forced to answer for it."

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