A Conservative MP from Alberta apologized to Victoria MP Laurel Collins in the House of Commons today after an inappropriate remark he made sparked backlash online.
Arnold Viersen, a Conservative MP from Peace River-Westlock in Alberta, made the comment during a debate about a man who was found guilty of killing a sex worker.
The man, a 51-year-old from Quebec, was charged with second-degree murder last week after killing Marylene Levesque, a sex worker, in a hotel room. The man was on day parole at the time, but was explicitly allowed to visit sex workers.
In the House of Commons, Conservatives have hammered the government about the federal parole system, while advocates of sex workers have been questioning the criminalization of the work.
Completely inappropriate comment, Mr. Viersen. pic.twitter.com/MgOHLJpa7b
— Jeff Jedras (@jeffjedras) February 4, 2020
“I would ask the honourable member to consider listening to the voices of sex workers,” said Collins, who has represented the riding of Victoria since her bi-election victory in October 2019.
“Sex workers are saying that sex work is work,” Collins said, raising the Harper government’s decision to criminalize the purchase of sex work.
“[I ask the member] if he acknowledges that this is a factor in this death and many others.”
Viersen’s reply was a personal one.
“I would just respond to that by asking the honourable member across the way if it’s an area of work that she has ever considered and if that is an appropriate –” Viersen said.
He was then cut off by shouts of “Shame on you” from the House of Commons.
Viersen later apologized
Viersen initially defended his remarks, before apologizing 20 minutes later:
“Mr. Speaker, I’d like to apologize unreservedly for my comments towards the member from Victoria,” Viersen said. He also tweeted an apology.
Earlier today, I stood in the House of Commons to apologize unreservedly to @Laurel_BC for my comments during the debate on our Opposition Day motion.
— Arnold Viersen, MP (@ArnoldViersen) February 4, 2020
Condemnation from social media was quick, with many calling for Viersen’s resignation.
Laurel Collins responded on Twitter a few hours after the incident, saying Viersen owed many more people an apology.
I’m glad @ArnoldViersen apologized to me, but I invite him to extend his apology to all women,” Collins wrote.
“Denigrating sex work & criminalizing the very things that would keep sex workers safe contribute to increased violence.”
I’m glad @ArnoldViersen apologized to me, but I invite him to extend his apology to all women. Denigrating sex work & criminalizing the very things that would keep sex workers safe contribute to increased violence. #SexWorkIsWork https://t.co/rTMExXdoy4
— Laurel Collins (@Laurel_BC) February 4, 2020