Justin Trudeau under fire for Ukraine joke

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is under fire from Conservative MPs after joking about Russia 's Olympic hockey team going without a medal during a discussion about Ukraine violently suppressing demonstrations.

Liberal leader joked Russians already in bad mood over Olympic hockey loss

Trudeau under fire for Ukraine comments

10 years ago
Duration 1:55
Political opponents criticized Justin Trudeau for connecting the crisis in Ukraine to Russia's Olympic hockey loss in an interview last week

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is under fire from Conservative MPs after joking about Russia 's Olympic hockey team going without a medal during a discussion about Ukraine violently suppressing demonstrations.

In an interview taped on Thursday, which aired Sunday night, Trudeau said that Russia was upset about its men's Olympic hockey team losing out on a shot at a medal in Sochi.

Trudeau was answering a question about whether Canada should do more to help Ukraine, where violence had hit its worst point since the Soviet era, with 75 people killed in two days. The EU and Canada announced economic sanctions against President Viktor Yanukovych that day.

"Canada should do more," Trudeau said in the interview on Radio-Canada's Tout le monde en parle, a French-language interview show that's enormously popular in Quebec.

The Liberals had been urging the government to do more, Trudeau went on to say in French.

"President Yanukovych has been made illegitimate. It's very worrying, especially because Russia lost in hockey, they'll be in a bad mood. We fear Russia's involvement in Ukraine," Trudeau said.

'Extremely serious' 

"Just because of hockey?" asked Guy Lepage, the show's host.

"No. That's trying to bring a light view in a situation that's extremely serious," Trudeau said.

Another guest, singer and actor Dan Bigras, then pointed out they were talking about massacres, something Trudeau agreed was horrible.

Conservative MPs took aim at Trudeau Monday on Twitter, including Employment Minister Jason Kenney and Industry Minister James Moore.

"So Justin Trudeau, whose favourite regime is 'the basic dictatorship of China,' thinks the deadly crisis in Ukraine is a laughing matter," Kenney said on Twitter, referring to Trudeau citing China as the country he most admired other than Canada.

Moore simply tweeted the quote and the word "Unreal."

'Offensive comments'

In an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Ukraine's ambassador to Canada said people have to be careful about what they say when there is killing in the streets of Kyiv.

"Jokes are inappropriate these days when we have hundreds [of] people [dead]," Vadym Prystaiko said.

Prystaiko said Trudeau's joke was inappropriate and that he will ask him to apologize. 

Liberal Deputy Leader Ralph Goodale and Liberal foreign affairs critic Marc Garneau defended Trudeau on Twitter.

The Liberals, Goodale said, had discussed the crisis in Ukraine over the weekend and adopted a resolution with Trudeau's "unequivocal support."

The resolution was voted on during the Olympic gold medal men's hockey game between Canada and Sweden, however, which Trudeau was watching in a different room.

Outside the House, Garneau denied Trudeau had put his foot in his mouth, and blamed the uproar on partisan attacks from the Conservatives.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said he was shocked to hear Trudeau's comments in the interview on Tout le monde en parle.

"Ladies and gentlemen, Trudeau apparently thinks the situation in Ukraine is something to joke about. We don’t. And we are concerned that there is not just one statement of this quality. There’s a pattern here of support for communist dictatorship, in belief in budgets balancing themselves, and now of whimsical comments, offensive comments, about Ukraine’s future based on the result of a hockey game in Sochi," said Alexander, a former ambassador to Afghanistan.