By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
She’s sorry, but not sorry.
NDP Carol Hughes says she still believes Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq was “disgusting” for heckling during a question period debate over the need for an inquiry into the high number of murdered and missing Indigenous women across the country.
Hughes was forced to apologize in the House of Commons following question period Monday after Conservative MPs overheard her saying to colleagues “isn’t she disgusting?” in reference to Aglukkaq. The Tory Nunavut MP was relentlessly heckling NDP MPs over their continued push for a national inquiry into the reasons why 1,200 Indigenous women and girls have been murdered or gone missing over the past three decades.
Conservative MP Jeff Watson rose on a Point of Order and said Hughes’ statement was a “personal attack and unparliamentary.”
While Hughes apologized and withdrew her statement, she later told APTN National News in an interview that she wasn’t really that sorry.
“She just goes on and on and on. She’s not a very nice person in the House when she is heckling like that,” said Hughes, who is the NDP MP for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing. “It got the best of me. I am not going to shed any tears over it. I think it was actually quite disgusting, to have to put up with that. All we are asking for is a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.”
Aglukkaq, who is the first Inuk to ever sit at the federal cabinet table, has developed a reputation as a relentless heckler during question period.
True to form on Monday, Aglukkaq launched a heckling tirade against Hughes as she was launching her question on the need for a national inquiry. A wide-shot of the House of Commons chamber during the episode shows an animated Aglukkaq heckling Hughes and gesticulating.
The chamber’s microphones, however, did not catch what Aglukkaq was actually saying, but Hughes told APTN National News she was yelling that the NDP didn’t know what it was talking about.
Aglukkaq continued to heckle even as Speaker Andrew Scheer gently chastised her for interrupting the question.
“If the Minister of the Environment wants to answer the question, she can answer it after I have recognized her, but not while the member is asking the question,” said Scheer, who has faced criticism both inside and outside the House for keeping too lax a grip on behaviour during question period.
Aglukkaq only stops heckling after a Conservative MP in the row behind her taps her on the shoulder, leans over and says something in her ear.
Hughes then finished her question, which referred to the 10 year anniversary of Amnesty International’s “No More Stolen Sisters” report on murdered and missing Indigenous women.
“What is the government so afraid of? What is it trying to hide this time? Will the government finally listen and put in place a national public inquiry into the missing and murdered Indigenous women,” said Hughes.
Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch fielded the question and responded saying the NDP “would rather hide behind a bunch of lawyers” on the issue.
“Having toured across the country and spoken to those families in confidence, we are moving forward with a plan that supports them, that puts in place preventative measures and also, that ensures we are protecting them,” said Leitch.
Aglukkaq’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
The NDP has pledged to call an inquiry within the first 100 days if elected to government.