OTTAWA — Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton said she was "ashamed" of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's physical outburst in the House of Commons Wednesday, but her response resulted in a social-media backlash.
Ashton had a front-row seat for the melee, which happened shortly before 6 p.m. in the House of Commons on Wednesday. Her seat is to the right of leader NDP Leader Tom Mulcair's and the entire event happened right in front of her.
"I have never seen anything like it," she tweeted a few minutes after it was over. "I witnessed the PM push one of my colleagues into my desk in the House of Commons. #disgusting"
Later on, Ashton rose to her feet to speak to a matter of privilege raised on behalf of NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who was hit by Trudeau's elbow and left the chamber, thereby missing the chance to vote on time allocation for the assisted-dying legislation.
"I am ashamed, as somebody who sits in this House, to have been witness to the person who holds the highest elected position in our country to have done such an act in this House," Ashton said, her voice full of emotion.
She called the event "deeply traumatic" and said what the prime minister had done was "assault."
"I am unwilling to make this political, but if we apply a gendered lens, it is very important that we recognize that young women in this place need to feel safe to come here, to work here, to speak here," she said.
While she received some support for her comments, Ashton also was condemned by a significant number of people on Twitter who thought she was overreacting, and that drawing comparisons to violence against women was inappropriate.
"People like @nikiashton bringing gender into issues that have nothing to do w/ gender is damaging to struggle for equality between genders," said Adnan Dhanani, a Toronto financial analyst on Twitter.
"I have rolled my eyes so hard at @nikiashton in the last 24 hours, I'm afraid they may be stuck," said a Twitter user listing her name as Lisa W. "Please, be a better example for women."
Ashton did not respond to a request for comment from the Free Press Thursday. She was away from the House of Commons to attend a meeting in Toronto.
Other Opposition MPs, including Portage-Lisgar Conservative Candice Bergen, also reacted strongly to Trudeau's actions.
"On a workplace level, if that kind of thing happened in a workplace, just a sorry isn't enough," Bergen said.
Bergen said Trudeau kicked two Liberal MPs out of his caucus over allegations of sexual harassment before the election, and while that was a "different set of actions" she thinks the fact Trudeau was the "judge, jury and sentencer" and killed their careers "has to be taken into consideration."
"Let us hope there is not one standard for certain MPs and another for the Prime Minister," she said.
"I think the Prime Minister acknowledged that he made a mistake," said Winnipeg South Liberal Terry Duguid. "He apologized for that. I think we on our side of the house are ready to move on."
Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa Conservative MP Bob Sopuck said Trudeau is an entitled rich kid who is not used to being told no. James Bezan, the Conservative MP for Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman said last fall his party campaigned saying Trudeau was "just not ready."
"Well guess what," Bezan said in an interview with the Free Press Thursday afternoon. "This proves it."