Ottawa

NDP MP Nathan Cullen shines light on fear politics after death of British MP Jo Cox

NDP MP Nathan Cullen, who knew the British MP who was shot and stabbed to death on Thursday, says the hateful politics taking hold in much of the world can inspire a lot of fear in people - and it's a problem that needs to be addressed.

'Hateful, fearful politics scares people ... draws their fears out ... and can focus it on somebody else'

NDP MP Nathan Cullen, who knew slain British MP Jo Cox, described her as "an incredible, incredible force" who used her voice to speak for those who don't have one — refugees especially. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

NDP MP Nathan Cullen, who knew the British MP who was shot and stabbed to death on Thursday, says the hateful politics taking hold in much of the world can inspire a lot of fear in people, and that's a problem that needs to be addressed.

Cox was shot and repeatedly stabbed in her own constituency near Leeds in northern England by a man who witnesses said had shouted "Britain first."

She was pronounced dead just more than 48 minutes later by a doctor working with a paramedic crew trying to save her life. A 52-year-old man was arrested nearby, and weapons including a firearm were recovered.

Cullen delivered a tearful tribute to Cox in the House of Commons later Thursday, which was followed by a minute of silence.

NDP MP Nathan Cullen gives a tearful tribute in the House of Commons for his friend, slain British MP Jo Cox. 3:22

'Jo was fearless'

On Friday, Cullen told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning he met Cox a few years ago at a leadership convention attended by about 15 people from around the world.

"And Jo, as soon as she walked in the room, stood out, even amongst this group of incredible people," he said.

They stayed in touch over the years as she debated entering politics, then did so successfully, and Cullen described her as "an incredible, incredible force" who used her voice to speak up for those who don't have one — refugees especially.

"Jo was fearless. This is what she knew was right. The plight of Syrian refugees was what she fought for, and her maiden speech is so beautiful in pointing those things out, even 18 months ago. So in just that year and a half she made an impression on the British Parliament and on her constituents that many of us in politics don't make in 18 years," Cullen said.

British MP Jo Cox was shot and stabbed to death on Thursday. (Reuters)

Risk of staying 'open and public'

The NDP MP was motivated to speak about Cox in the House Thursday because politicians, whose job it is to be available for the people they represent, also share the risk of being targeted by them.

"The British have this long tradition, as we do here in Canada, of being available and accessible — open houses and town halls and all those kinds of things. My staff are just in the midst of planning a whole bunch on electoral reform. I thought as MPs this was important for us to recognize that we want to stay open and public, yet there's this risk that we face," he said.

She was doing what she was supposed to ... standing up for the things that she believed in and trying to reflect back to us the best of us, not the fear and division that so many in political life seem to choose.- Nathan Cullen

"She was doing what she was supposed to; not just having a constituency meeting, but standing up for the things that she believed in and trying to reflect back to us the best of us, not the fear and division that so many in political life seem to choose."

That fear and division "is a problem," he said.

"It's very upsetting to see how some people, when trying to run for office — obviously Mr. Trump in the States is one of the more glaring examples — think that using just awful, brutal language, that may score them a few headlines and a few points in the polls, is somehow worth it," Cullen said.

"But it matters. ... Hateful, fearful politics scares people, worries them, it draws their fears out about other things that are going on in their lives and can focus it on somebody else, some group of immigrants or somebody other than [them]. I guess. I don't know. But I can only guess."

A woman leaves a floral tribute next to a photograph of Cox in Parliament Square, London. (Stefan Wermuth/Reuters)