In the midst of a ruckus on the parliament floor in Ottawa, Canadian legislator Ruth Ellen Brosseau said Trudeau elbowed her in the ribs, causing her to exit the room.
“It was very overwhelming,” she told the Associated Press. “I missed the vote because of this.”
In the Canadian government, voting may commence only when the whips — the officials in a political party responsible for corralling votes — are seated, according to the New York Times. A group of New Democrats, who oppose Trudeau’s Liberal Party, had formed a circle around Conservative whip Gord Brown. It was a maneuver not totally dissimilar to the way musk oxen protect their young, though the New Democrats’ goal was to stave off a vote to legalize medically assisted suicide rather than a pack of hungry wolves.
When Brown failed to pass through the cluster of bodies, Trudeau took it upon himself to escort Brown to his seat. He grabbed the Conservative whip by the bicep. While doing so, Brosseau said he brusquely connected with her chest.
Tom Mulcair, leader of the New Democrat opposition, roared to Brosseau’s defense. “What kind of man elbows a woman?” Mulcair said, according to the AP, shouting “Pathetic!” before other legislators stepped in to curb a further brouhaha.
After the physical quarrel was over, Conservatives and New Democrats verbally unloaded on Trudeau.
“In my nearly twelve years as a Member of Parliament, I have never seen a fellow member — let alone a Prime Minister — act as disrespectfully and recklessly towards his colleagues, or toward Parliament, as I did this evening,” said Rona Ambrose, the interim Conservative leader, in a statement obtained by Huffington Post Canada.
Some Canadian politicians voiced their displeasure on Twitter, noting the prime minister had at one time worked as a bar bouncer, and also compared Trudeau’s supporters to those of Donald Trump:
Trudeau appeared penitent after the incident, saying that he “certainly did not intend to offend or impact on anyone,” in an uncharacteristically flustered apology.
“I took it upon myself to go and assist him forward, which was I now see unadvisable as a course of action,” Trudeau said, the AP reports. “I apologize for that unreservedly and I look for opportunities to make amends.”
Others came to a qualified defense of Trudeau. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May watched the melee from a close vantage point, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Although Trudeau’s attempt to tug Brown away from the huddle was “unwise,” in her words, according to CBC she believes the “most emotional” contact — meaning the elbowing — was obviously “unintentional.”
“I saw the prime minister approaching and following the honorable member, trying to reach her and saying how very sorry he was,” May said. “He had not seen her behind him.”
It was an unusually physical moment in Canada’s House of Commons, though not in the scope of political brawls around the globe. In December, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was hoisted by his crotch by a member of parliament, who moments before had handed Yatsenyuk a bouquet of roses.
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