When an Alberta MP gave a television interview at a protest in Ottawa over the weekend, he said he was unaware that someone was flying an upside down Canadian flag with a swastika on it behind him.
On Saturday afternoon, Michael Cooper, the Conservative MP for St. Albert-Edmonton, was giving an interview to CBC TV when an individual carrying a flag moved up behind him. A photo of Cooper standing near the flag went viral on the internet.
Cooper distanced himself from the symbol in a written statement released Saturday night, calling it “evil.”
In part, the statement reads, “Had I seen the emblem, I would have opposed it, as I do today.”
“Nazism is the purest form of evil, and I have consistently condemned it. Whoever flew this flag is individually responsible for that heinous decision and should be ashamed of himself or herself for the rest of his or her life.”
Thousands of truckers and others opposed to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other public health restrictions gathered in Ottawa’s downtown over the weekend.
Cooper spoke to a CBC interviewer on Saturday about his opposition to the federal vaccine mandate for truck drivers crossing the US border.
While there may be a “small number of unsavoury characters” in the mix, Cooper noted in the interview that most of the people are “simply here to send a message to the prime minister.”
Initially centered on the federal government’s vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers, the protest has grown into a bigger movement against broader public health measures to combat COVID-19 spread.
Amarjeet Sohi, the mayor of Edmonton, and Cathy Heron, the mayor of St. Albert, issued a joint statement calling on Cooper to apologize later Saturday.
Part of the statement states, “We want the rest of the country to know that MP Cooper’s presence at this event in no way reflects the values of Edmontonians and St. Albertans.”
“We, along with many others, have been harmed by his actions and lack of judgment, and we demand that he apologize not only to his constituency, but also to the rest of the country.”
According to a political scientist, the image was not intended.
Cooper did not intend for the image to disseminate, according to Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
“But, when you waded into the protest, you may have expected anything like this,” he stated on Sunday.
“Even if it’s a small group, I noticed a lot of upside down Canadian flags, Confederate flags, swastikas, and obscenities directed towards [Justin] Trudeau. As a result, traveling there provides the chance for this type of backdrop.”
Cooper’s photo may come back to bother him in the future, according to Bratt, but he behaved appropriately to the issue.