Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a boxer and former bar bouncer, apologized before the Canadian Parliament after elbowing a female lawmaker in the chest and grabbing another lawmaker.
TORONTO (AP) — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized before the Canadian Parliament for a third time Thursday, saying he expects better behavior of himself after elbowing a female lawmaker in the chest and grabbing another lawmaker.
Trudeau, 44, said he should not have made physical contact with the one lawmaker and said he accidentally bumped into the female lawmaker.
“I made a mistake. I regret it and I’m looking to make amends,” Trudeau said. “I expect better behavior of myself.”
Opposition lawmaker Ruth Ellen Brosseau said she had to leave the House of Commons chamber after being elbowed.
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TV footage shows Trudeau hurriedly wading into a clutch of lawmakers who were blocking a lawmaker from getting to his seat as Trudeau’s Liberals tried to get a vote in on time.
The video shows Trudeau pulling the lawmaker in order to get a vote started on limiting debate on the government’s euthanasia legislation. As Trudeau turned around to pull the lawmaker, Brosseau can be seen grimacing in pain. Lawmakers said the prime minister used an expletive.
The kerfuffle comes as a blow to 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 apologized before Parliament twice on Wednesday and again Thursday.
“I ask Canadians’ understanding and forgiveness,” Trudeau said.
Geoff Regan, the House of Commons speaker and a member of Trudeau’s Liberal party, admonished him on Wednesday, saying “it is not appropriate to manhandle other members.”
The Speaker concluded that Brosseau’s privileges as a member of Parliament had been breached, which means the encounter will be examined by an all-party committee. Trudeau said he is fully prepared to accept its decision.
Physical contact between lawmakers is rare in legislatures in Canada. Still, the incident reminded Canadians of when late former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford barreled over a 63-year-old female city councilor while rushing to defend his brother, Councilor Doug Ford, who was insulting spectators in the council chamber.
“His behavior 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.”
The incident has already impacted the government’s agenda and could delay the passing of the euthanasia bill. Trudeau’s government backed down on a controversial motion that would have taken away some of the procedural tools opposition members use to delay the government, including on the euthanasia bill. Ambrose called it a “great start.” Liberal House leader Dominic LeBlanc said they still hope to pass the euthanasia bill before a Supreme Court deadline of June 6.
Conservative lawmaker Peter Kent went so far as to suggest that Trudeau’s actions were in contempt of Parliament. Conservative Candice Marie Bergen said Trudeau, a one-time boxer and bar bouncer, has to deal with his “anger issues and his temper and his entitlement” and noted he previously stuck out his tongue in a childish manner at the opposition.
Opposition New Democrat lawmaker Dan Davies, a former labor lawyer, said there’s 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,” 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,” Wiseman said
Not everyone was so concerned about Trudeau’s move.
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.”
Charmaine Noronha in Toronto contributed.