An Alberta Conservative MP said today he did not mean to offend anyone when he turned his hands into guns and pretended to shoot them several times during a House of Commons vote to eliminate the gun registry last month.
A video of Jim Hillyer, the MP for Lethbridge, making the gesture, was posted on YouTube Tuesday. It coincided with the annual day of remembrance for victims of violence against women.
Opposition MPs and anti-violence groups accused him of being insensitive. NDP MP Francoise Boivin demanded an apology from Hillyer in the House of Commons Wednesday, saying she had heard from many people who were offended by Hillyer’s behaviour.
Hillyer stood in his own defence and said it is really the person or persons who posted the video of the vote on Dec. 6 who shamefully made the link between his pretending to shoot and victims of violence.
"The people who caused the association, the offence, are the people who connected the video at the wrong day. That is terrible," he said.
Hillyer looked extremely uncomfortable during his short response, but that’s understandable given that he is still a rookie MP, and this was maybe the fourth time he’s said anything in the House of Commons, and it was on a point of order.
"No offence was intended. No one who sincerely looks at the video and the timing of the video would think for a second that I intended offence towards victims of violence."
He never actually apologized for the gesture but Government Whip Gordon O’Connor did.
"Somebody maliciously set the video up for yesterday," O’Connor said. "However, regardless, if people anywhere are offended by this action, I apologize.’
Hillyer did say he won’t be making any more gestures, because Speaker Andrew Scheer has ruled them out of order while dealing with a separate point of order.
On Tuesday, Scheer delivered a ruling reminding all members that clapping and cheering or gestures and disruptive behaviour of any kind during a vote is not allowed.
"All members must take great care in what they do and say here -- they are personally accountable for their actions and for their words -- so that they do not risk transgressing the accepted rules that exist to protect the dignity of this House and its Members."
Torontonian Elaine Lumley was in the gallery the day of the vote, and she said it wasn’t just Hillyer behaving badly that day.
"There was a lot of high-fiving and laughing," said Lumley. "They kind of turned it into a huge celebration."
Lumley is an anti-gun advocate, a role she has played vocally since her 20-year-old son, Aidan, was shot in the back during a trip with friends to Montreal in 2005. She said the antics of the Conservative caucus were like a slap in the face to the victims of violence who travelled to Ottawa to be in the gallery that day.
"They knew we were sitting right above them," Lumley said. "We just found it so disrepectful."
Lumley said she didn’t actually see the gesture Hillyer made until the video was posted this week. From her vantage point in the public gallery she could not see him.
She was even less impressed with what went on when she saw Hillyer’s video.
"What an idiot," she said. "They are just so insensitive to victims of violence."
Lumley said she repeatedly wrote to various Conservative MPs and ministers wanting to discuss the gun registry and nobody ever responded or agreed to a meeting.
-- Mia Rabson / The Capital Chronicles