Federal Liberals are using Facebook's decision to ban a prominent white nationalist to reignite criticism of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's appearance at a controversial rally.
It's a response that the Tory leader called a "disgusting" attempt to divert attention away from the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
Liberal cabinet ministers made the gambit both inside and outside the House of Commons Monday, shortly after Faith Goldy was removed from the social media giant's platform for espousing hate, along with other white nationalists such as Soldiers of Odin.
In question period, Scheer kept his focus on the SNC-Lavalin controversy. He repeatedly called for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was not in the House, to make good on his threat to sue the Tory leader over his contention the prime minister politically interfered with the criminal prosecution of the Quebec-based engineering giant.
Though Scheer said he looks forward to Trudeau having to testify in court under oath, Government House Leader Bardish Chagger accused the Tory leader of deleting tweets about the matter on March 31 — the same day Scheer received a letter from Trudeau's lawyer threatening a libel suit.
"But the one tweet the Conservative leader won't change is the one of him attending the same rally as white supremacist Faith Goldy," Chagger said. "It's quite interesting when he chooses to make changes and when he doesn't."
Watch the exchange:
Chagger was referencing how Scheer addressed the "United We Roll" rally on Parliament Hill in February, where he called for more support for Canada's oil and gas industry. People's Party Leader Maxime Bernier also spoke at the event.
Though billed as a rally against the Liberal government's energy policies, the event featured members of "Yellow Vests Canada" — a populist group known for promoting violence and xenophobic sentiments. Goldy, a former Rebel Media personality, addressed protesters that day from a scissor lift.
"This is nothing but a disgusting attempt to deflect from their own despicable handling of this corruption affair," Scheer said in the House Monday. "We will always denounce those who promote hateful ideologies while standing up for energy workers who are fighting for their jobs."
Chagger made a few more references to Goldy while taking questions about the possible legal battle looming between Trudeau and Scheer.
Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen hit the same notes with reporters just before question period.
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Gould told reporters that she agreed with Facebook's decision to ban Goldy before working in a shot at the Conservative leader.
"It is of note that the leader of the Official Opposition has been associated with the individual in question and we would call on him to apologize to Canadians, as well as to distance himself from these kinds of views," Gould said.
Hussen said political leaders should never "share a platform" with those who promote hatred.
"It's really unfortunate that in this day and age the leader of the Official Opposition did not find it a problem to share a stage with such an individual," he said, though Scheer did not appear on a stage with Goldy. "This is real folks and it has consequences."
Weeks ago, Scheer brushed off criticism about his appearance at the "United We Roll" rally by maintaining the event was about the struggles and anger of those in the energy industry.
"I know the Liberals would love to distract from their own failures by pointing to other elements that tried to associate themselves with the event," he said.
After news of Goldy's ban from Facebook broke, several people on social media also shared screengrabs from an interview Scheer gave her in February 2017, when she was still part of Rebel Media.
While Scheer and other Tory MPs spoke to the outlet during the Conservative leadership race, he cut ties after its sympathetic coverage of a violent white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. that turned deadly in 2017.
Heather Heyer, 32, was killed and 19 people were injured after an avowed neo-Nazi, James Alex Fields Jr., drove a car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville. Fields Jr. was later sentenced to life in prison.
"Until the editorial directions of the Rebel Media changes, I will not grant interviews to the outlet," Scheer said at the time.
The chair of the Conservative election campaign this year is a former Rebel Media director who also severed ties with the outlet.
Goldy was fired from The Rebel for taking part in a podcast hosted by a neo-Nazi group. Last fall, she ran for Toronto mayor and finished a distant third.
With files from The Canadian Press, Zi-Ann Lum