- Reuters/Chris Wattie
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized after he was accused of elbowing a female legislator during a chaotic exchange in the House of Commons that quickly devolved into a shouting match.
The lawmakers were on the verge of a vote concerning the government’s assisted-dying bill when the incident happened on Wednesday evening.
Video footage shows several members of the country’s New Democratic Party (NDP) standing in the way of Gord Brown, the whip for the Conservative Party.
Trudeau is then seen striding down the floor to grasp Brown by the arm – a move that one lawmaker later called “manhandling” – while elbowing NDP politician Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest.
NDP leader Tom Mulcair can later be heard yelling, “What kind of man elbows a woman? It’s pathetic! You’re pathetic!”
Brosseau later told the House she was shocked by the altercation, the Canadian Press reported.
“I was elbowed in the chest by the prime minister and then I had to leave,” she said. “It was very overwhelming and so I left the chamber to go and sit in the lobby. I missed the vote because of this.”
Another NDP member of parliament, Tracey Ramsey, said Trudeau swore at the lawmakers before “violently” grabbing Brown: “He said ‘Get the bleep out of the way.'”
Video here clearly shows PM Trudeau grabbing Oppo Whip and harshly elbowing NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau pic.twitter.com/e8haClmWFq
— James Smith (@JsrSmith) May 18, 2016
Trudeau said that he took full responsibility for the “unacceptable” incident, the CBC reported.
“I want to take the opportunity … to be able to express directly to [Brosseau] my apologies for my behavior and my actions, unreservedly,” he said.
I noticed 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.
Ruth-Ellen Brasseau “I was elbowed in the chest by the Prime Minister.”
— Paul McLeod (@pdmcleod) May 18, 2016
— Richard Madan (@RichardMadan) May 18, 2016
“Outside, people would call what happened here assault,” says Niki Ashton.
— Justin Ling (@Justin_Ling) May 18, 2016
Lawmakers later appeared split on whether the elbowing was intentional or accidental.
Peter Van Loan, a Conservative member of Parliament, called it an “extraordinary example of physical intimidation.” Green Party leader Elizabeth May said that it appeared unintentional, but “unwise.”
“I saw the Prime Minister approaching and following the honorable member, trying to reach her and saying how very sorry he was, he had not seen her behind him,” May said.
The speaker of the House of Commons, Geoff Regan, chastised Trudeau for the incident and said that Brosseau’s privileges as a member of Parliament had been breached, the Associated Press reported. The encounter will be examined by an all-party committee.
Trudeau apologized again at an event celebrating the official apology he made Wednesday for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident. More than a century ago, Canada’s racially exclusive immigration laws resulted in a steamship bearing hundreds of largely Sikh passengers being turned away. Twenty of the passengers died, and more were jailed following riots that erupted when the ship eventually arrived in India.
Trudeau acknowledged that his conduct in the House of Commons may have detracted from the gravity of his Komagata Maru apology:
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.
He has faced similar criticism in the past for his conduct in the House of Commons. During a 2011 debate on the Kyoto Protocol, Trudeau shouted that environment minister Peter Kent was a “piece of sh–.” He apologized shortly after.