Prime Minister Justin Trudeau caused a tumult on Feb. 16 during question period as he responded to a Conservative MP who is Jewish by saying her party stands with people waving swastikas. Trudeau was asked to apologize repeatedly but he did not.
MP Melissa Lantsman used her time in question period to contrast words said by the prime minister in 2015 and those said more recently when he disparaged people who don’t have COVID-19 vaccination.
“’A positive, optimistic, hopeful vision for public life isn’t a naive dream. It could be a powerful force for change. If Canadians are to trust their government, their government needs to trust Canadians.’ Those are the words of the prime minister in 2015,” Lantsman said.
She then cited Trudeau’s more recent characterization of those who don’t want to get COVID-19 vaccination in a French-language interview in 2021, and his more recent remarks on those protesting against COVID-19 mandates in Ottawa and other parts of the country.
“These people, ‘very often misogynistic, racist,’ ‘women haters’, ‘science deniers’, the ‘fringe’—same prime minister six years later, as he fans the flames of an unjustified national emergency. So, Mr. Speaker, when did the prime minister lose his way? When did it happen?”
Trudeau answered: “Conservative Party members can stand with people who wave swastikas, they can stand with people who wave the Confederate flag. We will choose to stand with Canadians who deserve to be able to get to their jobs, to be able to get their lives back. These illegal protests need to stop and they will.”
After Trudeau’s answer, an unidentified MP could be heard shouting repeatedly “How dare you let him say that!” and “Come on Speaker, bring order!”
“I just want to remind the Honourable members, including the Right Honourable Prime Minister, to use words that are not inflammatory in the House, and that’s for both sides,” said Speaker Anthony Rota.
“Unbecoming of a prime minister,” Lantsman said, before continuing with her next question.
After the question period, Lantsman called on a point of order where she asked for an apology from Trudeau.
“I am a strong Jewish woman and a member of this House, and a descendant of Holocaust survivors, and it’s never been singled out and I’ve never been made to feel less, except for today when the prime minister accused me of standing with swastikas. I think he owes me an apology, I’d like an apology, and I think he owes an apology to all members of this House,” she said.
Trudeau was not in the House at that time.
Earlier in the question period, Lantsman’s colleague Dane Lloyd asked Trudeau three times to apologize but Trudeau did not.
“I’ve never seen such shameful and dishonourable remarks coming from this prime minister,” Lloyd said.
“My great-grandfather flew over 30 missions over Nazi Germany. My great-great-uncle’s body lies at the bottom of the English Channel. There are members of this Conservative caucus who are the descendants of victims of the Holocaust.”
Trudeau attended question period for a longer time than in recent days, when he left after taking a few questions. He was pressed repeatedly on the issue of the Emergencies Act and when he would end the mandates, but he repeated that invoking the act was a necessary step and that his government will keep having Canadians’ back on COVID-19 and follow the science.