Conservative MP called out for ‘shameful’ comment to Joly during foreign interference hearing


2023-03-10 01:03:06

Liberal and NDP MPs are calling out Conservative MP Michael Cooper over what they described as a “shameful” and “completely unacceptable” comment he made to Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly during a hearing on foreign interference.

“You’ve talked tough. You’ve talked tough with your Beijing counterpart, so you say. You even stared into his eyes, I’m sure he was very intimidated,” said Cooper in questioning Joly during a combative and intense meeting of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee (PROC) on Thursday.

Joly and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc were there to testify at the request of the committee, as part of its ongoing study into foreign election interference.

Cooper’s comment was in reference to something the minister of foreign affairs said earlier in the meeting about a recent conversation she had with her Chinese counterpart Qin Gang. 

“I was extremely clear. I looked at him in the eyes and said to him ‘first we will never tolerate any form of foreign interference… in our democracy and internal affairs, and second we will never tolerate any form of breach of our sovereignty.’ And, and so that is why I think it’s important to have these tough discussions. They’re not something that we like doing, but I think it’s necessary for Canadians,” Joly said.

Cooper’s remark prompted an immediate request from the committee chair to “be mindful” about his approach and giving witnesses time to answer questions.

Responding, Joly said: “Well, Mr. Cooper, you would know China because you went to China as a parliamentarian in the past. And so therefore, I think you would understand that when we fall into too much partisanship, we’re falling into China’s trap.”

Cooper’s questioning of Joly continued for a few minutes, but afterwards both Liberal and NDP MPs spoke out slamming Cooper for how he spoke to the minister and calling for him to apologize.

“I just want to say as a woman politician, I remember at the very beginning of my career being asked if I was tough enough to do the job. And I think it’s absolutely devastating that, that sort of frame of reference would be used in this way,” said NDP MP Rachel Blaney. “I believe a minister has a position of power, regardless of gender identity, and that should be respected. And I’m sure that internationally it is, and I think it’s shameful that that was even said in this place.”

Joly thanked her for saying so, and LeBlanc followed agreeing that what Cooper said was “inappropriate.”

Before the meeting concluded, Liberal MP Jennifer O’Connell rose on a point of order regarding Cooper’s conduct, calling for him to apologize to the minister.

“The constant demeaning nature that only occurs to our female minister… Yesterday, it was another member of our team asking a question in QP and a Conservative member said she deserved a participation medal. Today it was a question of whether this minister is tough enough. Every single day we sit in this House as women and we hear these… micro aggressions, but they don’t feel very micro. To continuously be undermined,” she said.

Following her, Liberal MP Sherry Romanado asked Cooper whether he would have questioned whether former Conservative prime minster Stephen Harper was “tough enough” when he confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin, telling him to “get out of Ukraine.”

“That was completely unacceptable, unacceptable behaviour for every woman that has ever taken her place in this House. And I demand an apology.”

Cooper did not apologize before the meeting ended. 

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