Manitoba

Nahanni Fontaine leaves legislature as Pallister prods for 'cover up' apology

Premier Brian Pallister went fishing for an apology from a particular NDP member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly Tuesday, but all he caught was a cold shoulder.

Pallister hungry for apologies days after male NDP MLAs shout 'shame' at female Tories during vote

Premier Brian Pallister and St. Johns MLA Nahanni Fontaine during question period at the Manitoba Legislature Tuesday. (CBC)

Premier Brian Pallister went fishing for an apology from a particular NDP member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly Tuesday, but all he caught was a cold shoulder.

During question period Tuesday at the Manitoba Legislature, Pallister first thanked three NDP MLAs for apologizing after they shouted "shame" at women in the Tory caucus who stood to vote down a proposed NDP bill last Thursday.
Premier Brian Pallister went fishing for an apology from a particular NDP member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly Tuesday, but all he caught was a cold shoulder. 2:14

The bill would've mandated post-secondary institutions in the province develop strong policies against sexual violence and harassment on campus. The government voted down the bill Thursday, saying more robust legislation was in the works.

Fort Richmond PC MLA Sarah Guillemard filed a complaint with House Speaker Myrna Driedger last week, claiming she felt the tactic targeted and intimidated fellow female Tory caucus members who voted against the bill.

After asking for and receiving an apology from NDP interim leader Flor Marcelino Tuesday, Pallister went after St. Johns NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine.
Sarah Guillemard accused three NDP MLAs of sexist behaviour during a vote on a bill concerning sexual assault and sexual violence on Thursday. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

'A heated day'

When pressed for a response after the shouting in the House last Thursday, Fontaine did not confirm the nature of her colleagues' comments. 

"Today was a little bit of a heated day. Our caucus really believes in the bill that was obviously defeated. I think that things just really got out of hand, but in every way, shape or form we stand against misogyny," she said Thursday.

Fontaine denied hearing anything targeting PC female members.

"I didn't see that and I saw a back-and-forth that our members were saying 'shame' on our male colleagues across the way as well. So I didn't see that at all in any way," Fontaine told reporters on Thursday.

But when Fort Rouge NDP MLA Wab Kinew was also asked for comment, he admitted to seeing fellow New Democrats involved in shouting "shame" at female PC MLAs during the vote.

'Cover up'

Pallister accused Fontaine and the NDP of trying to orchestrate a "cover up."

"The only thing worse than the wrongdoing is the denial subsequently made and repeated of the wrongdoing by a member who was in the House at the time. That is not right," Pallister said of Fontaine.

"Aiding and abetting such conduct … allows it to continue. Bullies may be bullies it is said, but they should not be allowed to be bullies, and they should not be aided and abetted in that behaviour by their colleagues."

As Pallister railed on, Fontaine stood up and walked out of the chamber floor.

Driedger said the issue was under review and shouldn't be discussed, but Pallister maintained the events happened subsequent to the ruling and therefore should be fair game.

Fontaine apologized to PC MLAs last week

Fontaine released a statement later Tuesday afternoon where she attempted to clarify what she did or did not see transpire in the House last Thursday.

Fontaine repeated that she did not witness male NDP members involved in the "targeted heckling incident," adding she didn't willfully mislead the media or Manitobans.

"I initially understood there were several members yelling 'shame' across the floor to all members opposite and advised so to the media. Upon learning this was not the case, I immediately went to personally apologize to the members for St. Vital and Fort Richmond as one woman to another," the statement reads.

"MLAs have come forward to accept responsibility for their actions. It is incumbent upon all MLAs to keep proceedings respectful in the House."

With files from the Canadian Press and Sean Kavanagh