OTTAWA — Government House leader Bardish Chagger apologized in the House of Commons Thursday for making light of opioid-related deaths in Ontario.
She heckled a Conservative MP during a Monday debate about Canada's opioid crisis. Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte MP Alex Nuttall said his riding saw 36 deaths related to opioids in 2017. His colleague Ken Hardie raised the statistic in a follow up, prompting Chagger to say, "Oh that's it? That's not so bad, is it?"
Opposition House leader Candice Bergen called the remark "heartless and cruel" and "incredibly hurtful" to those who have been affected by the country's opioid epidemic, and asked for an apology.
Watch: Government House leader apologizes for flippant remark
The Liberal MP rose and said her comments "were not intended to diminish the seriousness" of the issue and said opioids have been linked to 85 deaths in her own riding of Waterloo.
MPs of all party stripes were taking part in the "take note" debate — which is conducted to solicit different viewpoints that may shape government policy.
Opioids have been linked to the deaths of more than 9,000 people across Canada between January 2016 to June 2018, according to Health Canada.
Chagger called the issue a "national crisis" and offered a mea culpa. "On this issue, if I have offended anyone, I can promise I have no problem apologizing. I apologize," she said.