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The Canadian House of Commons erupted in shouts of condemnation Wednesday after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replied to a Jewish member of Parliament by accusing members of the opposing Conservative Party of “standing with people who wave swastikas.”
Trudeau, a member of the Liberal Party, made his comment in response to being grilled by Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman during a tense, emotional Question Period, which occurs every sitting day in the Canadian House of Commons when members of Parliament ask questions of government ministers, including the prime minister.
Lantsman, who became the first Jewish woman in the Canadian Parliament last October, read a 2015 quote from Trudeau when he said, “If Canadians are going to trust their government, their government needs to trust Canadians.”
Lantsman contrasted such a sentiment with Trudeau characterizing members of the Freedom Convoy as “very often misogynistic, racist, women-haters, science-deniers, the fringe.” Accusing him of fanning “the flames of an unjustified national emergency,” Lantsman demanded to know “When did the prime minister lose his way?”
MP Melissa Lantsman wins her riding of Thornhill for the Conservative Party in Thornhill, Ontario, on Sept. 21, 2021. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star)
“Conservative Party members can stand with people who wave swastikas, they can stand with people who wave the Confederate flag,” Trudeau said in response. “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 other side of chamber erupted in response, prompting Speaker of the House of Commons Anthony Rota to interrupt in an attempt to restore order. He also admonished all — “including the Right Honourable prime minister” — to avoid “inflammatory” language in the House.
MP Dane Lloyd later rose to rebuke Trudeau for his comment, saying, “Mr. Speaker, I’ve never seen such shameful and dishonorable remarks coming from this prime minister. 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.
“For the prime minister to accuse any colleague in this house of standing with a swastika is shameful. I’m giving the prime minister an opportunity. I’m calling on him to unreservedly apologize for this shameful remark,” he added.
Trudeau three times refused Lloyd’s demand for an apology, which Lloyd said “speaks volumes.”
Lantsman later introduced a point of order demanding a personal 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,” she said. “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.”
Lantsman’s point of order was met with applause, by which time Trudeau had already left the chamber.
The tense back-and-forth in the lower chamber of the Canadian Parliament came as Trudeau faces intense criticism for his invocation of the Emergencies Act to crack down on trucker blockades and Ottawa protests, which have lingered for 20 days. Trudeau has repeatedly characterized the demonstrations against vaccine mandates as illegal.