Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Martin apologizes to senator for cursing

Says he didn't know tragic circumstance

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OTTAWA -- NDP MP Pat Martin has had a change of heart about comments he made last week while cursing at a Conservative senator.

"I honestly don't feel good about it," Martin said Tuesday.

On Feb. 1, Martin called Conservative Sen. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu an "asshole" after Boisvenu suggested murderers should be given ropes in their prison cells to hang themselves.

Initially, Martin refused to apologize, but after some time to think about it, he said, he changed his mind.

Martin called Boisvenu's office Monday to offer an apology. On Tuesday, he spoke with the senator and said he was sorry.

"He was very graceful," Martin said.

Martin said he still disagrees with Boisvenu about the idea of giving inmates tools with which to kill themselves, but there was no need for the actual words he used.

Boisvenu's comment outraged suicide-prevention advocates and opposition MPs.

A Quebec man filed a complaint with police accusing Boisvenu of inciting suicide, which is a Criminal Code offence.

Later the same day, Boisvenu said he apologized if his comment offended anyone whose family member had committed suicide, though he also said he'd received a lot of supportive emails about it.

Boisvenu is an outspoken victims' rights advocate. His daughter was raped and murdered by a repeat offender in Quebec in 2002. He was appointed to the Senate in 2009.

Martin said he did not know about Boisvenu's tragic family circumstances before the incident.

Martin said Tuesday more than two-thirds of the emails he received about the incident supported his comments and he said he isn't so much worried about his reputation as he is feeling badly about what he said.

"I regret the words very much," he said. "If my child had been murdered, given my temper, I'd be the angriest man out there."

He said he stands by his concern that if Boisvenu can't set aside his grief while he debates public policy, he perhaps should not be in the Senate.

This was the second time in three months Martin's foul mouth landed him in hot water.

Last fall, he unleashed a profanity-laced outburst on Twitter after the government shut down debate on a budget bill.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement also recently swore on Twitter, calling a 15-year-old boy a "jackass" after the teen taunted Clement for misspelling the word tonight as "tonite" in a tweet. Clement apologized to the boy.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 8, 2012 A3

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