Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was cautioned against using “inflammatory” language by the Speaker of the House of Commons on Wednesday after he told Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman, who is Jewish, that her party stands with “people who wave swastikas.”
Mr. Trudeau made the comment during Question Period on Wednesday amid a heated debate over the country’s single remaining blockade in Ottawa and the government’s imposition of the never-before-used Emergencies Act.
Ms. Lantsman, the MP for Thornhill, north of Toronto, told the House that Mr. Trudeau “fans the flames of an unjustified national emergency” and asked, “When did the Prime Minister lose his way?”
He responded by saying, “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.”
The comments prompted an uproar in the House of Commons, with some MPs calling for Mr. Trudeau to apologize. The Prime Minister’s statement earned him a direct rebuke from Speaker Anthony Rota.
“I just want to remind the honourable members, including the Right Honourable Prime Minister, to use words that are not inflammatory in the House,” he said.
Mr. Trudeau did not withdraw the comment.
Mr. Trudeau and his caucus have criticized the Conservatives throughout the blockade in Ottawa for supporting the antigovernment protests against pandemic mandates and restrictions.
Some of the people protesting on Parliament Hill have carried flags and signs featuring swastikas and yellow stars of David. And some of the opponents of the vaccination mandates at the blockades have likened them to the persecution of Jews by the Nazis.
Ms. Lantsman is a descendant of Holocaust survivors and called Mr. Trudeau’s comments “unbecoming as a Prime Minister.”
Later on Wednesday, Conservative MP Dane Lloyd twice used his time in Question Period to ask Mr. Trudeau to retract his comment and apologize. In both cases, Mr. Trudeau did not.
Ms. Lantsman then rose on a point of order to request an apology, but the Prime Minister had left the House of Commons.
“I am a strong Jewish woman and a member of this House and the descendant of Holocaust survivors,” she said. “I have 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.”
The Globe and Mail asked Mr. Trudeau’s office if he would apologize to Ms. Lantsman. In response, a spokesperson directed The Globe to comments from Families Minister Karina Gould.
Ms. Gould is also Jewish and a descendant of Holocaust survivors, and responded to the point of order by calling on everyone to “take a step back.” She also criticized Conservatives for taking pictures with protesters who want to overthrow the government.
“We must assure that no one in this House is standing with those who support white supremacy, who support Nazi views, who look to contribute and enable racist views,” Ms. Gould said. “And I would call on the members opposite not to stand with those who are sharing those views.”
On Jan. 29, Conservative MP Michael Cooper did a TV interview, where a protester could be seen behind him carrying a flag with a swastika. He later said he wasn’t connected to the protester and said anyone using the symbol “should be eternally ashamed.”
At the time, Ms. Lantsman wrote on Twitter, “it’s possible to respect the right to protest even if you disagree –while condemning the reprehensible symbols used by some.”
Last week, Liberal MP Joël Lightbound broke with the government on its pandemic policies and said he was concerned by his party’s divisive rhetoric. During the past election campaign, he said, “a decision was made to wedge, to divide and to stigmatize.”
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