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MP Michael Cooper called to apologize for ‘shameful’ questioning of Joly

Liberal and NDP MPs are protesting Conservative MP Michael Cooper over what they described as “disgraceful” and “totally unacceptable” comments he made to Foreign Minister Melanie Joly during a hearing on foreign interference.

“You spoke harshly. You spoke harshly to your Beijing counterpart, so you say. You even looked her in the eye, I’m sure she was very scared,” Cooper said, questioning Jolie during a combative and tense meeting. Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) on Thursday.

Jolie and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominique LeBlanc were there to testify at the request of the commission as part of its ongoing probe into foreign election interference.

Cooper’s comment was in reference to something the foreign minister had said earlier in the meeting the last conversation he had with his Chinese counterpart Qin Gang.

“I was too simple. I looked him in the eye and told him “firstly we will never tolerate any form of foreign interference…in our democracy and internal affairs and secondly we will never tolerate any form of infringement of our sovereignty”. And so I think it’s important to have these tough discussions. They’re not something we like to do, but I think it’s necessary for Canadians,” Joly said.

Cooper’s remark prompted an immediate plea for the committee chairman to be “cautious” about his approach and to give witnesses time to answer questions.

In response, Jolie said: “Well, Mr. Cooper, you would know China because you went to China as a deputy in the past. And so I think you’ll find that when we get too partisan, we fall into the China trap.”

Cooper’s questioning of Jolly continued for several minutes, but afterwards both Liberal and NDP MPs criticized Cooper for the way he spoke to the minister and called for an apology.

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

Jolie thanked him for saying so, and LeBlanc followed up by agreeing that what Cooper said was “inappropriate.”

Before the meeting ended, Liberal MP Jennifer O’Connell called for order on Cooper’s conduct, calling for him to apologize to the minister.

“The constant humiliating nature that only happens to our female minister… Yesterday another member of our team was asking a question in the CP and the Conservative member said she deserved a participation medal. Today the question was whether this minister is tough enough. Every day we as women sit in this chamber and hear these… micro-aggressions, but they don’t feel so petty. Constantly undermined,” he said.

Following him, Liberal MP Sherry Romanado asked Cooper if he would question whether former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper was “tough enough” when he confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin, telling him to “get out of Ukraine.”

“It was totally unacceptable, unacceptable behavior for every woman who has ever taken her seat in this House. And I demand an apology.”

Cooper did not apologize before the end of the meeting.

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