The “big” Canadian political news last week was Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, elbowing a woman in the House of Commons. It took over the media for several days. The “injured” MP claimed she was overwhelmed and had to leave the house to recover. MPs from both the Conservative and NDP parties condemned the Prime Minister, and he apologized.
To me, this is an extremely noteworthy event. It means for the first time since Trump started running for the Republican nomination, the most embarrassing political event of the week didn’t involve Trump.
What really happened
Luckily, there is a video of the entire incident. What actually happened was the NDP clustered on the floor of the House of Commons, deliberately blocking the Conservative Whip from returning to his seat.
The Prime Minister, seeing that the NDP members were being buttheads, pushed through the NDP scrum to retrieve the Whip, and then escorted him through the crowd. In the process, he brushed his elbow against Ruth Ellen Brosseau, the female Member of Parliament representing Berthier-Maskinonge. Brosseau complained to her colleagues and left the house. Trudeau apologized—and tried to apologize to the member directly—and everyone freaked out, including complaints that Trudeau wasn’t living up to his feminist principles.
My interpretation is a bit different than the opposition parties. Basically, the NDP members were trying to disrupt the proper functioning of the parliament by physically impeding other Members of Parliament. For some reason, nobody seems to have a problem with this. But I do. These members have been elected to govern, not to act like children playing silly games and wasting everyone’s time.
Thus, I understand why Trudeau was frustrated. Perhaps it was undignified for a Prime Minister to stand up and get the Whip himself, but it was no less dignified than Members of Parliament to try to block out the Whip in the first place.
The uproar over the elbow was even more ridiculous and embarrassing. The video shows that he barely touched Brosseau. If she’s injured and traumatized by such a light touch, I imagine the impact of her footfalls as she walks down the street must be nearly incapacitating. Putting on her clothes in the morning must be traumatizing. I should caution her not to ride the bus during rush hour—doing so would almost certainly be a death sentence.
To me, that there would be such an uproar over a non-incident is deeply embarrassing. There was nothing here. No injury to anyone. Just a bunch of children squealing about nothing.
To say that the Prime Minister’s actions were anti-feminist hurts the feminist movement by reducing the credibility of feminist statements. If someone gets outraged at such a minor incident, then it means that they have no ability to judge what should be considered outrageous. They should be ignored because their opinions aren’t worthy of anyone’s time.
I don’t have a problem with the Prime Minister apologizing for elbowing Brosseau. Politically, he has to. What’s more, at the time of the apology, it may have been unclear to him how uninjured Brosseau actually was. But I do have a problem with the MPs who wasted our time and made a huge deal out of nothing in order to somehow score political points. To me, they lost political points. Big time.
My bottom line
The interesting thing is that I actually agreed with the NDP on the issue being debated—there’s value in not cutting short the debate on doctor-assisted suicide. But they really lost me with their juvenile tactics and making a huge deal out of nothing. To me, the Prime Minister comes out of this looking good (as does Elizabeth May, who once again took a reasoned stance about what happened).