Saturday 10 December 2016

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologises again over elbow

Published 19/05/2016 | 03:21

Justin Trudeau apologised for making physical contact with a woman opposition MP who said he elbowed her in the chest (The Canadian Press/AP)
Justin Trudeau apologised for making physical contact with a woman opposition MP who said he elbowed her in the chest (The Canadian Press/AP)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologised before the Canadian parliament for a third time, saying he expects better behaviour of himself after elbowing a female colleague in the chest and grabbing another politician.

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Mr Trudeau, a boxer and former bar bouncer, said he should not have made physical contact with the one politician and said he accidentally bumped into his female colleague.

"I made a mistake. I regret it and I'm looking to make amends," Mr Trudeau said. "I expect better behavior of myself."

Opposition politician Ruth Ellen Brosseau said she had to leave the House of Commons chamber after being elbowed.

TV footage shows Mr Trudeau hurriedly wading into a clutch of politicians who were blocking a colleague from getting to his seat as Mr Trudeau's Liberals tried to get a vote in on time.

The video shows Mr Trudeau pulling the politician in order to get a vote started on limiting debate on the government's euthanasia legislation. As Mr Trudeau turned around to pull him, Ms Brosseau can be seen grimacing in pain. Politicians said the prime minister used an expletive.

The fracas comes as a blow to Mr Trudeau's image as a modern, feminist leader who has talked about bringing "sunny ways" to politics and threatens to end his honeymoon after October's election.

He apologised before Parliament twice on Wednesday and again Thursday.

"I ask Canadians' understanding and forgiveness," Mr Trudeau said.

Geoff Regan, the House of Commons speaker and a member of Mr Trudeau's Liberal party, admonished him on Wednesday, saying "it is not appropriate to manhandle other members".

The Speaker concluded that Ms Brosseau's privileges as a member of parliament had been breached, which means the encounter will be examined by an all-party committee. Mr Trudeau said he is fully prepared to accept its decision.

Physical contact between politicians is rare in legislatures in Canada. Still, the incident reminded Canadians of when late former Toronto mayor Rob Ford knocked over a 63-year-old female city councillor while rushing to defend his brother, councillor Doug Ford, who was insulting spectators in the council chamber.

"His behaviour was unbecoming for the office of the prime minister," interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose told parliament on Thursday. "It was unsettling for all of us."

Conservative politician Peter Kent went so far as to suggest that Mr Trudeau's actions were in contempt of parliament.

Opposition New Democrat politician Dan Davies, a former labour lawyer, said there is not a workplace in Canada where an employee would be allowed to be physically moved along by their boss.

"While an apology is absolutely essential, that is not sufficient," Mr Davies said.

Nelson Wiseman, a political scientist at the University of Toronto, said the incident is getting a lot of attention and "tarnishes Trudeau's image".

"Trudeau appeared compulsive and not prime ministerial, although I thought much of what the opposition was saying and doing did not put them in a positive light," Mr Wiseman said

But Toronto resident Nisha Shirali said she chuckled to herself when she saw the news.

"I think it's hilarious that this issue is actually news here in Canada. The elbowing was obviously accidental and has been blown way out of proportion," she said.

Press Association

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