The debate over whether the government is doing enough to deal with foreign fighters returning to Canada took a personal turn in the House of Commons on Monday when Conservatives accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of wearing the “same little arrogant smile” when answering questions about the matter in recent weeks.
Conservative public safety critic Pierre Paul-Hus used the personal attack to kick off debate Monday over an opposition motion asking the House of Commons to “condemn the horrific acts committed by ISIS,” and “acknowledge that individuals who joined ISIS fighters are complicit in these horrific acts and pose a danger to Canadians.”
The motion also calls on the government to “ bring to justice and prosecute any ISIS fighter returning to Canada,” and “insist that the government make the security and protection of Canadians its priority, rather than the reintegration of ISIS fighters, or the unnecessary financial payout to a convicted terrorist, like Omar Khadr.”
Paul-Hus suggested the prime minister has taken a smug approach to defending his government’s focus on de-radicalization and preventing extremism.
“Why should we be made uncomfortable for asking these kinds of questions,” Paul-Hus said.
It is not the first time Trudeau has been accused of arrogance — the refrain is a reliable one for the opposition and critics.
Former Conservative MP and current Alberta United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney has called him “regrettably smug,” while Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said in September that Trudeau’s “arrogance is astounding” in response to the government’s initial defence of its proposed small business tax changes announced — and quickly panned — over the summer.
Paul-Hus also repeated the assertions his party has pushed over the last two weeks that the government is putting Canadians at risk by not immediately locking up any individual who has returned from participating in foreign conflicts.
Roughly 250 Canadians have left Canada to take part in conflicts around the world, and about 60 have returned to Canada over the last two and a half years.
WATCH: Liberals attack Conservatives over record on fighting radicalization
However, experts say only about 10 or 12 of those returnees have come back from fighting with ISIS, and that gathering reliable evidence from what remains an active war zone makes a conviction in court extremely difficult.
The government has hit back by accusing the Conservatives of fear-mongering and stoking divisions by suggesting that hordes of hardened fighters have been flooding back into the country, and did not put any of their heavy hitters up to speak to the motion, which took place before a largely empty House of Commons.
WATCH BELOW: Goodale says number of foreign fighters ‘essentially the same’ as two years ago
Mark Holland, Parliamentary secretary to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, took the bulk of questions and suggested the government did not feel the motion was worthy of serious discussion the way it was framed by the Conservatives.
“It is unbecoming of this place,” said Holland. “When it’s framed this way, it’s so cynical.”
Holland also defended the government’s decision to give a $10-million payout to Omar Khadr last summer, saying that while there are “conflicting accounts” of what happened during the 2002 firefight when Khadr was accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier, there was no conflict around the fact that the Canadian government failed to uphold its defence of his fundamental rights when it co-operated with American authorities who tortured him.
WATCH: Liberals respond to Conservative motion to block payouts similar to Omar Khadr settlement
Khadr guilty to murder charges in 2010 and was convicted but later said he only confessed to throwing the grenade under torture.
The government said at the time that the case brought against it by Khadr was virtually unwinnable and that fighting it would have cost close to $20 million combined with costs it had incurred to date.
The Conservatives have said the government should have fought it no matter how much it cost.
Debate on the Conservative motion is set to continue throughout the afternoon Monday but will ultimately be defeated since Liberals hold the majority of seats in the House of Commons.