A controversial statement by Conservative MP Michael Cooper before the Commons justice committee — in which he named the New Zealand mosque shooter and recited passages from his manifesto — will be officially struck from the record.
After a testy exchange, MPs on the Commons justice committee voted 6-0 today in favour of the unusual move to purge Hansard, the official parliamentary record.
Three Conservative members abstained from the vote. One Conservative MP, Michael Barrett, called the Liberal-led manoeuvre a “stunt.”
Committee members already had voted to erase the offending words and referred the matter to the House of Commons. But because the motion to cull Cooper’s statement did not receive unanimous consent from MPs, Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault brought the issue back to committee for another vote.
Prior to this second vote, the committee tweaked the wording to narrowly define the portion of Cooper’s statement to be struck from the record.
Cooper, who has since been dropped from the committee by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, provoked an angry backlash when he confronted a Muslim witness who was testifying about online hate speech during a late May committee hearing.
The Alberta MP told Faisal Khan Suri he should be “ashamed” after he drew a link between “conservative commentators” and the online history of Quebec mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette.
In an attempt to discredit Suri’s testimony, Cooper quoted from the manifesto of the man accused of two March 15 gun rampages in Christchurch, New Zealand that killed 50 people.
New Zealand’s government banned distribution of that 74-page manifesto, arguing the document “promotes murder and terrorism.”
NDP MP Tracey Ramsay said today the committee had an obligation to remove the references.
“That should never have been read into the record. It was completely inappropriate,” she said.
Liberal MP Iqra Khalid insisted this is not a political or partisan issue, but rather a question of correcting a wrong and ensuring that witnesses feel safe when appearing before a Commons committee.
“Striking this from the record will ensure that the safety of this space has been restored,” she said.
Conservative MPs argued the Liberals are trying to score political points and said it’s wrong to change an official record.
Several historians also have criticized the decision to sanitize the official record, saying it undermines the integrity of Parliament and the goal of holding MPs to account for egregious conduct.
The Canadian Historical Association said the unusual move will impede future historians’ ability to fully understand and analyze this incident and its context.