Conservative leader Andrew Scheer is declining to remove one of his party’s MPs who lashed out at a Muslim witness during a May 28 parliamentary hearing.
Michael Cooper, who represents the riding of St. Albert-Edmonton, took offense to witness Faisal Khan Suri linking conservative pundits with the online history of Quebec mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette, and his comparison of the motives of the Pittsburgh synagogue and Christchurch shooters a result of seeking out “alt-right and conservative commentators.”
“I take great umbrage with your defamatory comments to try to link conservatism with violence and extremist attacks,” Cooper said to Suri, who is president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council. “They have no foundation. They are defamatory. And they diminish your credibility as a witness.”
Bizarrely, Cooper then proceeded to quote from the 74-page manifesto of the Christchurch mass shooting suspect Brenton Tarrant. Possession of the manifesto is banned in New Zealand but permitted in Canada.
When the hearing reconvened after a break, Cooper offered a partial retraction of his comments, but no apology. “While I certainly find the comments made by Mr. Suri to be deeply offensive and objectionable and vehemently disagree with them, I will withdraw saying that he should be ashamed,” Cooper said.
Despite calls from Suri for Cooper to be removed from the caucus, Andrew Scheer has so far only removed Cooper from the House of Commons justice committee, allowing him to remain as deputy justice critic. This means that in a Scheer government, Cooper could become Minister of Justice.
“Mr. Cooper has apologized. I accept his apology and I consider the matter closed,” Scheer tweeted on Saturday.
As many Twitter users pointed out in replies to the Tweet, Scheer is not the person Cooper had to apologize to and Scheer should not be able to decide when the matter is “closed.”
Cooper penned a weak apology for his behaviour in a statement posted to Twitter the same day, claiming he “unequivocally condemns” racism.
In an interview with CBC on Sunday, Suri said that more needs to be done to punish Cooper and that his group is troubled that Cooper had a copy of the manifesto on hand to read from.