A veteran Conservative appeared to call out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Wednesday for not acknowledging his predecessor’s efforts in granting honorary Canadian citizenship to Malala Yousafzai.
Though the long-awaited visit of the activist and Nobel Peace Prize co-winner to Parliament Hill was largely a time to put aside partisanship, Quebec MP Denis Lebel made it clear in question period Wednesday that he thought former prime minister Stephen Harper deserved more credit for the day.
But Yousafzai’s visit to Canada in 2014 was effectively cancelled because of the terror attack on Parliament Hill.
“This morning, the prime minister referred to Malala’s humility,” Lebel told the House in French, just a few hours after Yousafzai’s stirring address. “He should have done the same thing and said prime minister Harper is the one who made the initial decision to acknowledge her and recognize her as an honorary citizen.”
Trudeau responded that he was pleased to recognize the activist and invite her to address a joint session of Parliament.
Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, left, is presented with an honorary Canadian citizenship by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 12, 2017. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
“I do want to underscore that she is an honorary citizen… because there was a unanimous vote held in the House and everyone wanted Malala to become a Canadian citizen,” Trudeau said.
The House of Commons agreed unanimously in 2014 to bestow the honour on Yousafzai, who survived being shot by a Taliban gunman at age 15 and has advocated for the right of girls and women around the world to be educated.
Harper released a statement Wednesday welcoming Yousafzai to Canada and noting his 2014 motion.
“On behalf of all Canadians, it was an honour to bring forward a motion on the naming of Ms. Yousafzai an honorary Canadian citizen in the House of Commons October 21, 2014,” Harper said in a release.
“Malala is an international symbol of perseverance for not only girls and women but for all of us, she embodies what it means to be Canadian.”
— Stephen Harper (@stephenharper) April 12, 2017
Interim Tory Leader Rona Ambrose also directly thanked Harper in an Instagram post for making the day happen.
Malala Yousafzai is now an honourary Canadian citizen! 🇨🇦 Inspiring to hear her speak in the House today. Thank you @stephenharper for your Motion in the House of Commons back in 2014 to make this happen. Malala exemplifies so much of what it means to be Canadian: bravery, conviction, and a determination to stand up for those who need support. Malala Yousafzai est maintenant citoyenne canadienne honoraire ! 🇨🇦 C’était inspirant de l’écouter à la Chambre des communes aujourd’hui. Merci @stephenharper pour votre motion en 2014 qui a rendu cela possible. Malalaincarne ce que ça signifie être Canadien : le courage, la conviction et la détermination à défendre ceux qui ont besoin de soutien.
Tory MP Dianne Watts retweeted a post from the prime minister’s official Twitter account, also acknowledging Harper’s role.
I would like to acknowledge PM Harper for recognizing her amazing contribution to the world in 2014. https://t.co/IelsgC3vv9
— Dianne Watts MP (@DianneLWatts) April 12, 2017
CTV Power Play tweeted earlier in the day that the Prime Minister’s Office had said Harper and other former prime ministers were invited to attend the ceremony, but could not attend.
PMO confirms that Harper & other fmr PMs were invtited to attend Malala ceremoney today but "regrettably, they were unable to attend."
— CTV Power Play (@CTV_PowerPlay) April 12, 2017