SEAN KILPATRICK/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Depending on who you ask, it was an unprovoked "manhandling" or a simple accident. The Prime Minister's physical altercation with NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau on Wednesday, the mayhem that ensued in the House and his subsequent apologies have heightened an already tense debate over physician-assisted dying legislation – and both sides are already putting partisan spins on the murky sequence of events behind the confrontation in Parliament. Here's what we know so far, and what MPs are saying about it.
THE DAY IN THE COMMONS
Tempers have been running high in the Commons all week after the government gave notice of a motion to give cabinet tighter control over the House of Commons' schedule, and when the House can break for the summer. Opposition MPs have criticized the motion as a "draconian" attempt to help the government get its way without debate.
On Wednesday, before the confrontation took place, members were gathered in the House to vote on a motion, to limit debate on its controversial assisted-dying legislation, Bill C-14. The government is pressing to get its bill passed by week's end to meet a looming Supreme Court deadline.
THE TALE OF THE TAPE
What! Is there a fight in the House right now? MPs scrambling around...Speaker yelling order— Laura Stone (@l_stone) May 18, 2016
The entire contretemps involving Mr. Trudeau, Ms. Brosseau and Conservative whip Gordon Brown took only about a minute. Here are some of the key events highlighted:
And here's the video:
Mr. Trudeau's move to bring Mr. Brown to his seat may not have even been necessary, as the Liberal whip was seated at the time. Only one whip needs to be seated for a vote to proceed.
WHAT MS. BROSSEAU SAYS HAPPENED
Ms. Brosseau said she had been struck in the chest and was so shaken that she had to leave the House.
SEAN KILPATRICK/THE CANADIAN PRESS
WHAT MR. BROWN SAYS HAPPENED
In a statement, Mr. Brown said he told Mr. Trudeau to "let go of me – now. Immediately afterward, the Prime Minister went back down the aisle of the House to confront other Members of Opposition parties. I later told the Prime Minister he should NOT have gotten out of his seat."
WHAT MR. TRUDEAU SAYS HAPPENED
Mr. Trudeau said the NDP MPs appeared to be blocking Mr. Brown from taking his seat so the vote could start. When he went to retrieve Mr. Brown, he says, he extended his arm to help the whip come through the group of MPs, and hit Ms. Brosseau by mistake.
WHAT OTHER MPS SAY HAPPENED
How fast was he going?
NDP MP Randall Garrison: "I saw the prime minister – I would use the word 'charge' across the floor with intent and shove people, with the intent of moving the whip down the aisle, an intentional action by the prime minister which is unacceptable in the House of Commons. … As part of doing that he knocked one of my colleagues into the desk."
Just witnessed Prime Minister "RUSH" across floor & challenge number of NDP MP's this all after he shoved Cons Whip Very strange Very wrong— Larry Miller, MP (@LarryMillerMP) May 18, 2016
'Manhandled' or 'grabbed'?
And the PM manhandled the NDP whip. I witnessed this too.— Tony Clement (@TonyclementCPC) May 18, 2016
Prime Minister of Canada just grabbed the Opposition Whip and tried to force him toward the Table to start a vote. Unbelievable disrespect.— Mark Strahl, MP (@markstrahl) May 18, 2016
Did he swear?
NDP MP Tracey Ramsey: Ms. Ramsey said Mr. Trudeau swore as he approached her caucus colleagues standing in front of Mr. Brown. "He said 'get the bleep out of the way,"' Ramsey said in the House of Commons. An NDP source who spoke to Ms. Ramsey afterward confirmed the MP had heard Trudeau say "get the fuck out of my way."
Was it intentional?
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: "It was most unwise of the prime minister to attempt to move along the vote … but the second contact with my friend, the member for Berthier-Maskinonge, which is certainly the one that was the most emotional for the member involved, was clearly, from my perspective … unintentional."
Were the NDP actually preventing Mr. Brown from taking his seat?
On Thursday, at a joint news conference, NDP House Leader Peter Julian was asked whether the NDP MPs were obstructing Mr. Brown's path to delay the vote. Ms. May, the Green Leader, was also present.
NDP house leader Julian refuses to say whether NDP were deliberately blocking Brown to delay last night's vote. Calls it "irrelevant."— Bill Curry (@curryb) May 19, 2016
Julian now says no attempt was made. Reporter says another NDP MP told her there was a playful attempt at delay. May agrees. Newser ends.— Bill Curry (@curryb) May 19, 2016
HOW MR. TRUDEAU APOLOGIZED
Mr. Trudeau apologized for the altercation with Ms. Brosseau minutes after it happened.
He apologized again on Thursday morning, saying he should not have risen to grab Mr. Brown and was now looking to "make amends." Ms. Brosseau was not present in the House at the time.
HOW IT'S BEING INTERPRETED
Opposition politicians described Mr. Trudeau's actions as a sign of poor respect for Parliament. "Prime Minister Trudeau's behaviour today was shocking," interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said. "His clear intent was to intimidate Members physically and his actions resulted in my NDP colleague Ruth Ellen Brosseau being shoved into a desk. She was clearly shaken up."
Quite disappointed in conduct of many in the House tonight. The Prime Minister should lead by example & not be part of a melee.— Erin O'Toole (@ErinOTooleMP) May 18, 2016
So Justin Trudeau's increasingly dictatorial conduct has now turned into physical bullying of MPs. Bizarre, unforgivable, unprecedented.— Jason Kenney (@jkenney) May 18, 2016
Other opposition politicians took aim at Mr. Trudeau's credentials as a self-identified feminist. His encounter with Ms. Brosseau was "the furthest thing from a feminist act," NDP MP Niki Ashton said in the House a few minutes after the incident. "If we apply a gendered lens, it is very important that we recognize that young women in this space need to feel safe to come here and work here."
SEAN KILPATRICK/THE CANADIAN PRESS
DID TRUDEAU BREAK ANY RULES?
Political scientist Hamish Telford of the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, B.C., told The Canadian Press that people have been ejected from the House of Commons for using unparliamentary language, but he can't remember a time when two politicians got into a physical altercation.
Prof. Telford says there likely aren't any rules governing such behaviour in the House of Commons, particularly because the kerfuffle took place on a break. He says new restrictions could be something to look into in the wake of Wednesday's dustup, but a rule banning physical contact between politicians could prohibit tender moments.
WHAT ABOUT THE VOTE?
MPs voted 172-137 on Wednesday to limit debate on the assisted-dying legislation, although Ms. Brosseau wasn't able to register her vote. The Speaker could barely make himself heard as he tried to read the text of the motion.
On Thursday, Government House leader Dominic LeBlanc said the government would withdraw the controversial motion, to the relief of the opposition.
Julian says he is happy the government has withdrawn Motion 6, which he calls a "Parliamentary straitjacket." #cdnpoli— Michelle Zilio (@MichelleZilio) May 19, 2016
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Mr. Regan concluded that Ms. Brosseau's privileges as an MP had been breached, which means the encounter will be examined by an all-party committee.
With reports from Laura Stone, Gloria Galloway, Bill Curry, Michelle Zilio and Evan Annett
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said that the motion to limit debate was defeated. In fact, the motion passed by a margin of 172-137.