Jagmeet Singh, the leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party , has won a critical by-election and a seat in parliament, ensuring he will lead the left-of-centre party in the country’s October federal election. Singh, the first non-white leader of a major party in Canada, was under immense pressure to win the highly anticipated race in Burnaby, a city east of Vancouver. “Friends, we made history today,” he told supporters. “When I was growing up, I could have never imagined someone like me running to be prime minister.” Calling the victory “incredible”, Singh pledged to fight for Canada’s middle class and took direct aim at growing fears of xenophobia in the country. The rookie leader, who some see as an energising force in Canadian politics, will have a place in the House of Commons, allowing him to spar with other leaders and the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, ahead of the election. The victory was critical for the party leader: amid sagging poll numbers nationally and fundraising difficulties for the party, senior members had cast doubt over his future leadership had he not secured the win. “Jagmeet Singh has always been underestimated,” his brother Gurratan Singh tweeted as results were reported. “And he always proves them wrong.” Typically, leaders of federal parties in Canada decline to run competitive candidates when another leader is seeking a seat. The Liberal Party, as well as the Conservatives and the People’s Party, all ran candidates in the Burnaby South electoral district. The Green party chose not to run a candidate. The closely watched by-election was not without controversy. In January, Liberal candidate Karen Wang was forced to step aside after commenting about Singh’s candidacy on social media. “If we can increase the voting rate, as the only Chinese candidate in this riding, if I can garner 16,000 votes I will easily win the by-election, control the election race and make history!” she wrote on WeChat. “My opponent in this by-election is the NDP candidate Singh of Indian descent!” The text was condemned by both the NDP and the Liberals. Wang stepped down at the request of Trudeau. While the win is a relief for Singh, the electoral district of Burnaby South is widely viewed as an NDP stronghold. In two other by-elections across the country, the NDP lost Outremont, handing over the Quebec seat once held by its former leader to the Liberal Party candidate, Rachel Bendayan. In the Ontario seat of York-Simcoe, won by Conservative Scot Davidson, independent candidate John “The Engineer” Turmel, who holds the world record for the most contested elections, kept his streak going, notching his 96th loss – with less than 1 per cent of the vote.