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Liberal MP Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on March 9, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on March 9, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Justin Trudeau's <br/>honour-killing unease fans <br>cultural-relativist flames</br> Add to ...

1. 'It's meant to be pejorative.' Justin Trudeau is under attack after he said he was uncomfortable with the Conservative description of so-called honour killings as "barbaric." As a result, the Liberal immigration critic has now drawn his entire party into the controversy - on the eve of a possible general election.

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"If not 'barbaric,' how would the Ignatieff Liberals describe honour killings?" the Tories ask in a series of talking points sent out to supporters and MPs late Monday night.

Stephen Harper's Conservatives, who have themselves come under fire for their stand on women's rights, jumped all over this. Their outrage springs from comments Mr. Trudeau made when asked to respond to the updated citizenship study guide, which Immigration Minister Jason Kenney released Monday.

The updated guide, which the Tories says is meant to "help new immigrants learn about Canadian history and about the acceptable cultural practices of our country," labels the murder of women or girls who purportedly bring dishonour on their families as "barbaric."

It is this characterization that Mr. Trudeau took offence to, telling radio station Newstalk 1010 reporter he was "uncomfortable with the tone."

"He said 'he does not want them to be described in such a 'pejorative' way in Canada's citizenship guide'," according to the Tory missive. "Trudeau said that 'I think that's part of the tone that I'm uncomfortable with'."

The Conservative Party memo goes on to say, "We believe that the Ignatieff Liberals opposition to calling 'honour killings' barbaric is unacceptable. If not barbaric, we ask them, what word would they use to describe 'honour killings?' "

Reaction was swift Monday night after the comments were reported. "Apparently Liberals believe it's 'pejorative' to call honour killings barbaric," Mr. Kenney said on Twitter. "NB - it's meant to be pejorative."

In another tweet, Mr. Kenney said: " Liberal cultural relativism is precisely what undermines public support for multiculturalism. It's wrong & irresponsible."

Even former Liberal war-room chief Warren Kinsella weighed in on Mr. Trudeau's comments. "He's a friend, he's a good guy. I think this statement is totally unacceptable, and in no way reflects the guy I know," Mr. Kinsella wrote on his website. "I believe he should retract and apologize. I hope he does."

But Michael Ignatieff's office is defending Mr. Trudeau, playing down his comment and playing up the Harper government's record on women's rights.

"It's disappointing that the Conservatives think that a mention of violence against women in this guide is a sufficient strategy to actually combat violence against women," a senior Ignatieff official said Tuesday morning. "If Stephen Harper claims to be concerned about violence against women, why has his government refused to develop a National Violence Against Women Prevention Strategy that the House of Commons unanimously endorsed in 2008?"

And Mr. Trudeau himself chimed in Tuesday morning. "My problem with the use of the word barbaric is that it was chosen to reassure Canadians rather than actually change unacceptable behaviours," he said on Twitter.

"The subjective value loaded into that word makes it easy to dismiss as an insult, rather than a statement of basic, simple fact," he added.

Instead, he suggested describing such acts as "totally unacceptable," a phrase he says is " clear, strong, and objective, without being 'us civilized, you not.'"

2. Soft landing. In 1993, Preston Manning and his Reformers came to Ottawa with a noble promise to cut and reform those generous gold-plated MP pensions. But when the air was cleared of all their bluster and outrage they ended up taking them anyway - save for Mr. Manning, who opted out.

Now, 18 years later, two of those original Reformers - Transportation Minister Chuck Strahl and British Columbia MP John Cummins - have decided not to run again in the next election and are leaving the federal scene with sizable.

Mr. Strahl will collect $132,667 a year, according to calculations by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, when he turns 55 next year. Mr. Cummins, 69, will collect $105,218 a year.

Stockwell Day, 60, the Treasury Board President, who did not run for the Reform Party but came into the House of Commons as Canadian Alliance leader in 2000, receives $84,857 in his annual pension.

It is not clear how much he will receive from the Albert government, where he served in the legislature from 1986 to 2000. However, it will likely be small as the Alberta pension was eliminated in 1993, retroactive to 1989.

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