N.S. legislature scuffle leads to charges
Police called in to investigate washroom altercation between Liberal Keith Colwell and NDP Percy Paris
Halifax Regional Police have charged a 65-year-old man with assault and uttering threats after an incident in Nova Scotia's legislative assembly Thursday afternoon.
Police would not confirm the identity of accused before the case is heard in court Friday.
Officers were initially called to Province House after a member accused a cabinet minister of assault during a heated altercation in the men's washroom.
The bizarre incident happened just after question period Thursday.
Tourism Minister Percy Paris said he "lost his cool" with Liberal Keith Colwell in the men's bathroom. The dispute continued into the members' chambers, which was witnessed by Progressive Conservative MLA Allan MacMaster.
"I guess there would be some physical contact," MacMaster said when asked to describe what he saw. "I encouraged them to relax. I know things have been getting heated."
A short while later, Colwell said he called the police to report the fight.
"I wouldn't have filed a police report unless I thought I was threatened," Colwell told reporters after giving police his statement, in which he alleged he was assaulted by the minister.
"That's his story," Paris said to reporters a while later, before speaking to police. "That's certainly not my story."
Both Colwell and Paris refused to answer repeated questions about exactly what happened between the two.
"I would say that Mr. Colwell and I had an animated exchange outside of the house," Paris said. "I regret that I lost my cool for a few seconds."
"I'm really not prepared to say anything about it. I'm going to let the police investigation take care of this and see where it goes from there," said Colwell. He said he was "shocked" by the way the situation unravelled.
Paris insinuated that the altercation was connected to comments about the black community made in the house earlier in the day that "didn't sit well" with him.
"I would say that for a brief number of seconds I lost my temper. As the only member of African descent in the house, I certainly interpret things that are said in the house a lot different than … all the other colleagues in the house."
During question period Thursday, Colwell asked the premier about a mobile mammography clinic that will not be going to his riding, Preston, which has a significant black population.
"You're going to have to explain to the people in my community – a black community – that's not going to get this service this year because it was left off the list," Colwell said in the house.
Paris wouldn't specify if that comment upset him. But he said there was an accumulation of comments through the day.
"Things just, for me personally, just reached a point where I lost my composure for a few brief seconds and I think most people that know me would say Percy Paris is pretty cool most the time," he said.
Both men said they plan to attend the house Friday, when the spring session is scheduled to wrap up.