Justin Trudeau's elbowing incident leaves House in an uproar
'There is not a parallel in contemporary Canadian history,' NDP House leader says following Commons uproar
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was accused of "manhandling" Opposition whip Gord Brown and elbowing NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the House of Commons as MPs gathered for a vote on the government's assisted-dying bill Wednesday afternoon.
In video from the House, Trudeau is seen walking toward Brown in a crowd of MPs in the Commons aisle, taking his arm in an apparent effort to move Brown toward his seat. While doing so, he encountered Brosseau, who was also standing in the aisle and was seen physically reacting after the contact.
"I was trying to start the vote, the prime minister grabbed my arm. I immediately told the prime minister to let go of me — now," Brown said in a statement released later. "Immediately afterward, the prime minister went back down the aisle of the House to confront other members of opposition parties."
"I later told the prime minister he should NOT have gotten out of his seat," Brown added.
NDP House leader Peter Julian accused Trudeau of "manhandling" Brown, as MPs on all sides of the House shouted and Speaker Geoff Regan struggled to regain order.
NDP MP Tracey Ramsey said the prime minister swore as he approached Brown and the opposition benches. "He said 'Get the bleep out of the way,'" she said, adding Trudeau "violently" grabbed Brown.
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Sources told CBC News that Trudeau used the F-word — a profane utterance that decades earlier landed his father, Pierre Trudeau, in hot water in the same House of Commons.
But it was Trudeau's actions that provoked the most concern and anger from opposition benches.
MPs were just about to vote on time allocation for Bill C-14, the government's physician-assisted dying legislation.
The prime minister later said he felt Brown was walking too slowly ahead of the vote.
After the incident, the prime minister again crossed the floor and engaged in a loud and heated conversation with NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.
"What kind of man elbows a woman? It's pathetic! You're pathetic!" Mulcair can be heard on tape shouting at Trudeau.
An emotional Brosseau said later in the House that she had been "elbowed in the chest by the prime minister," bringing Trudeau to his feet once again to "apologize unreservedly."
Brosseau said she was so upset from the incident that she had to leave the chamber, subsequently missing the vote.
Her NDP MP colleague Niki Ashton said she was deeply troubled by Trudeau's actions.
"I am ashamed to be a witness to the person who holds the highest position in our country do such an act. I want to say that for all of us who witnessed this, this was deeply traumatic. What I will say, if we apply a gendered lens, it is very important that young women in this space feel safe to come here and work here," she said.
"He made us feel unsafe and we're deeply troubled by the conduct of the prime minister of this country."
Because the incident happened before a vote, former prime minister Stephen Harper, who is otherwise rarely in the chamber, witnessed the entire incident unfold. He can be seen on tape observing the altercation with a cocked eyebrow and a bemused expression on his face.
'Unadvisable course of actions'
In a second attempt at an apology, Trudeau said he took full responsibility for the "unadvisable course of actions."
"I want to take the opportunity … to be able to express directly to [Brosseau] my apologies for my behaviour and my actions, unreservedly. The fact is, in this situation, where I saw … I noticed that the whip opposite was being impeded in his progress, I took it upon myself to go and assist him forward, which I can now see was unadvisable as a course of actions that resulted in physical contact in this House that we can all accept was unacceptable," he said.
"I look for opportunities to make amends directly to the member and to any members who feel negatively impacted by this exchange and intervention."
Julian said later what transpired was simply unacceptable.
"There is not a parallel in contemporary Canadian history. We hear about members becoming physical in other countries but that is not Canada," Julian said as MPs raised points of privilege after the vote.
Conservative MP Peter Van Loan said it was an "extraordinary example of physical intimidation."
"I witnessed as [Trudeau] strode across the floor with an anger fierce, in his face and eyes, towards a group of individuals. What took place was the prime minister physically grabbing people, elbowing people, hauling them down the way," he said.
Things are very very bad in the House. Nearly a physical altercation between Mulcair and Trudeau. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash">#cdnpoli</a>—@ElizabethMay
Opposition leader Rona Ambrose posted a statement Facebook saying Trudeau "demonstrated a complete lack of respect for members of the House of Commons, and for Parliament."
"No one should ever have to deal with this kind of behaviour in any workplace. The fact that it's the prime minister of Canada is embarrassing. He should be ashamed of his actions," she said.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said she witnessed "mischief" on the floor leading up to the incident, and added she saw the prime minister approach Brosseau to offer an apology shortly after the altercation.
"It was most unwise of the prime minister to attempt to move along the vote by moving along [Brown]. That movement was clearly a contact that was unwanted. But the second contact, which was certainly the one that was the most emotional for the member involved, was clearly from my perspective I confirm … unintentional," she said of the prime minister's encounter with Brosseau.
"And I have to say, I saw the prime minister approaching and following the honourable member, trying to reach her and saying how very sorry he was, he had not seen her behind him," May said.
Later, at an event celebrating the government's official apology for the Komagata Maru incident, the prime minister apologized again and acknowledged that his behaviour in the House would overshadow the historical reckoning.
"I'm certainly someone who knows that sometimes it's a challenge to always be positive and be welcoming. And indeed I'm going to apologize again for an incident in the House this evening that might take away a little bit in the news tomorrow and, for some people, the extraordinary celebration that today is … for that I truly regret."