Justin Trudeau And Elbowgate: Safe Space Hysteria In Canadian Politics

It’s not just the students. Now fully grown adults – even elected MPs – are using the victimhood-soaked language of social justice and identity politics to score political points

As legislative brawls go, it hardly ranked with the fine example set by the likes of Turkey and Ukraine. But this most Canadian of restrained altercations is noteworthy for another reason – the fact that those parliamentarians on the side of the “victim” almost immediately resorted to the language of social justice and victimhood when establishing their narrative to the press.

The Guardian gives the background:

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, apologised in parliament on Wednesday after he was accused of “manhandling” one member of parliament and elbowing another, in conduct that sparked an uproar in Canada’s normally staid parliament.

Footage from inside the House of Commons showed Trudeau striding purposefully across the floor of the chamber and into a group of MPs, pulling Conservative Gord Brown by the arm to lead him to his seat so that parliament could begin a procedural vote.

Trudeau swore as he made his way to Brown, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, reportedly telling MPs to “get the fuck out of the way”.

As Trudeau led Brown from the group, he elbowed New Democrat MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest. Parliament descended into mayhem as MPs heckled and pounded their desks while New Democratic party leader Tom Mulcair shouted at Trudeau. “What kind of man elbows a woman? It’s pathetic! You’re pathetic!” Mulcair can be heard shouting.

A close watching of the video shows that Trudeau is clearly impatient and exasperated, and quite possibly very rude in the way that he tried to grab opposition whip Gord Brown. But the elbowing of Ruth Ellen Brosseau was clearly unintentional, if still a likely consequence of the way that Trudeau went charging in to the tightly packed group of MPs.

So was an apology from Trudeau for an accidental physical contact enough to satisfy his critics? Of course not. CBC reports:

An emotional Brosseau said later in the House that she had been “elbowed in the chest by the prime minister,” bringing Trudeau to his feet once again to “apologize unreservedly.”

Brosseau said she was so upset from the incident that she had to leave the chamber, subsequently missing the vote.

Her NDP MP colleague Niki Ashton said she was deeply troubled by Trudeau’s actions.

“I am ashamed to be a witness to the person who holds the highest position in our country do such an act. I want to say that for all of us who witnessed this, this was deeply traumatic. What I will say, if we apply a gendered lens, it is very important that young women in this space feel safe to come here and work here,” she said.

“He made us feel unsafe and we’re deeply troubled by the conduct of the prime minister of this country.”

Far more disturbing than the incident itself is the fact that Brosseau, who clearly was not seriously hurt in the incident, nonetheless felt so emotionally overwhelmed by an accidental physical contact that she was unable to perform her duties in the House and had to leave the chamber. More depressing still is the way in which her colleague, Niki Ashton, whines about the incident using the same fragile, aggrieved tones that we have come to expect from student activists fully inducted into Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics.

Ashton claims that the event was “deeply traumatic”, not just for Brosseau who was hit, but for every single other person who witnessed the event. It is worth replaying the video at this point, to marvel at the notion that “trauma” could be inflicted on anybody from so minor an incident. And then comes the inevitable cry that the Canadian House of Commons is no longer a “safe space” for women MPs – all because of an unintentional physical contact between a man and a woman.

Seriously. The Canadian House of Commons, an unsafe space. Aside from the terrorist shooting in 2014, there are probably few spaces in the world as safe as the Canadian parliament. To claim that a highly secure building protected by armed guards and filled with generally mild-mannered politicians is “unsafe” is not only incredibly self-obsessed, it also does a disservice to people who may work dangerous jobs, live in rough neighbourhoods or grow up in broken families, all of whom have legitimate cause to fear for their safety. But no, let’s all worry that the Canadian parliament is somehow a seething hotbed of misogyny, just because the prime minister lost his temper and brushed past somebody a bit roughly.

Even the safest of spaces – like the Canadian parliament – cannot prevent unfortunate accidents, or occasional random acts of stupidity. Trudeau’s was just such an act, for which he apologised fulsomely. But we should all be concerned by the reaction to the incident, for it reveals something festering and growing in our culture.

So far, this blog has covered 37 distinct “Tales from the Safe Space“, covering incidents of student authoritarianism, attacks on free speech and excessive mental fragility from young adults who appear unable to function in the real world. A frequent response to the concerns raised by this blog and others is that we are exaggerating the problem – that it only affects universities, and that only a small subset of students at those universities subscribe to the brittle, authoritarian mindset which demands trigger warnings, safe spaces, no-platforming and campus speech codes. Well, now we see that there is no exaggeration.

The idea of grown adults as chronically weak victims or soon-to-be-victims has leaked out from the university campus like a toxic oil spill, and now infects even the parliament of a major western country. Now, Canadian MPs, elected to represent their constituents, speak of being traumatised and made to feel unsafe by witnessing a minor moment of awkward physical contact between two other people.

So can we please start taking this seriously now? At long last, can we stop deluding ourselves that this is a silly non-issue only affecting a small number of hardcore student activists, and that those involved will soon grow out of their authoritarian, victimhood-soaked ways? Because we now have definitive proof that they do not grow out of these habits. They grow into (physically) mature adults who then get themselves elected as MPs. And when their numbers reach critical mass, they will begin to enact exactly the same draconian laws and regulations for the whole country as they were accustomed to seeing on their own college campuses. All of Canada will effectively become a “safe space”, with all the attendant consequences for freedom of thought, behaviour and speech.

And that prospect is far more terrifying and traumatic than watching slow-motion footage of one person brushing past another in the Canadian parliament.


Safe Space Notice - 2

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