Conservative MPs are calling for a freelance reporter to be removed from the parliamentary press gallery after he tweeted a comment they believe could provoke violence against politicians.
The issue arose at a time during Wednesday’s Question Time when Conservative MP Garnett Genuis quoted the band Queen as asking a question about inflation. The Queen reference was a dig at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was spotted to sing Bohemian Rhapsody with members of the Canadian delegation last weekend for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.
Dale Smith, a freelance member of the parliamentary press gallery, then tweeted that “Genuis is trying to include lyrics from ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in his question, and I can’t adequately tell you how lame it is. When horses are that lame, shoot you put them down. .”
Genuis rose in the House of Commons on Thursday morning over a privilege. He called Smith’s comments “threatening” and outside the bounds of normal political discourse.
“In the current climate, we should all know the risks associated with explicitly inciting violence against government officials,” the Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan MP said.
“Some would certainly say he is joking, but the problem with so-called jokes that threaten officials is that I, as the target of these comments, [am] somehow supposed to understand and be okay with a threat based on one’s supposed intentions. And I just don’t agree.”
Genuis said Smith’s press gallery accreditation gives him access to the West Block halls. He called on the gallery to revoke those privileges.
“The current reality of access is affecting my ability to perform my functions as a member,” Genuis said.
He was supported by Conservative MP Raquel Dancho, the party’s public safety critic, and Andrew Scheer, the leader of the Conservative House, when he asked the speaker to consider suspending Smith’s privileges pending a hearing. investigation into whether he should be permanently removed from the stands.
Assistant Vice Chair Carol Hughes said the Chair would look into the matter and come back with an answer.
Smith says he owes ‘no apology’
In a blog post On Thursday morning, Smith called the tweet an “unoriginal joke” and denied insinuating that Genuis should be shot.
“I have done no such thing and I owe him no apology. If anything, he owes everyone an apology for subjecting us to his attempt to be clever with the lyrics of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,'” he wrote.
Smith then accused the Conservatives of playing “the intimidation game.”
“If you’re critical of someone on their team, they’re declaring you’re biased, even if you’re critical of every team,” he wrote.
“They cry and moan, hoping you’ll apologize or back off, and then they’ll know you’re weak and that they can silence you with these tactics.”
Smith reached on Thursday afternoon and said he is waiting to speak to the president of the press gallery before commenting further.
The back-and-forth comes as reporters — especially journalists of color — report an increase in harassment and abuse.
For weeks, multiple journalists have been publicly sharing a series of emails they have received containing specific, targeted and disturbing threats of violence and assault, along with racist and misogynistic language.
Politicians have also come under fire in recent years. MPs from both sides of the aisle last month condemned an incident in which Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was loudly accosted in Alberta by a man who repeatedly shouted profanity at her, calling her a traitor.
Last month, Trudeau urged political leaders to condemn acts of aggression and intimidation against politicians, warning that Canada could be forced to “rethink” the ways elected officials and the public can interact safely.
“We need to be able to have that connection that we’ve always been proud of [on]that Canadians can be around those who represent them,” Trudeau told reporters outside Rideau Hall.
“But the aggressive bullying, the hate-filled tactics of a small number of people make us rethink the freedoms we’ve had as MPs.”