Taking their dust-ups from the political arena to the boxing ring, Liberal MP Justin Trudeau and Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau are set to duke it out for charity in March.
While they first sparred over Twitter over a number of Aboriginal issues, such as Canada’s scandalous number of murdered and missing women, it was Trudeau that actually approached Brazeau for the Ottawa rumble.
The event will take place as part of the Fight for the Cure cancer fundraiser event in Ottawa on March 31 and, according to Trudeau, getting into the ring for real after years of recreational boxing will be a chance of a lifetime.
“When I had a friend tell me about this charity boxing match in Ottawa I thought ‘Oh, what fun!’ I didn’t automatically think of the senator but I did think that it would be nice to have someone from across the house to box with me,” said Trudeau.
Brazeau wasn’t Trudeau’s first choice however but since no other politicians volunteered – both Conservative MP Rob Anders and Defense Minister Peter MacKay declined – Brazeau seemed like the best contender because of their history and his fitness level.
While the Fight for the Cure is an annual Ottawa white-collar boxing fundraiser that has pitted high-end lawyers against each other as well as folks from various prominent walks of life, this will be the first time that two politicians have squared off in the ring.
In terms of going up against his ultimate political adversary, Prime Minister Stephen Haprer, Trudeau said that it didn’t even cross his mind to ask him as it would have just seemed “silly”.
“Even asking the Defense Minister, I wasn’t too sure as to whether he would be allowed as it is one thing for a backbencher to scrap in the ring, but it’s another thing for someone in a cabinet post to do it,” said Trudeau.
In that Brazeau, an Algonquin from the Kitigan Zibi reserve near Maniwaki, was the only politician willing to go up against him, once the event became concrete, Trudeau said he actually did worry about how this would be perceived by the public.
While Trudeau said he has demonstrated a huge affection and closeness to the First Nations communities over the course of his lifetime, he was concerned that his going head-to-head with Brazeau would be construed as him beating up on a minority.
“But, this was immediately dismissed as soon as I started talking to any number of my First Nations and Native friends who said, ‘Justin, good call!’ This includes some people who are fairly well placed within the Assembly of First Nations. Though I won’t drop any names, when we had the First Nations Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa there were a number of chiefs who pulled me aside and said, ‘You make sure you win this one for us!’” said Trudeau.
A staunch defender of the Conservative government’s actions regarding funding on Aboriginal reserves, Brazeau has often drawn criticism from many Aboriginal leaders who feel that the government should be doing more.
During last year’s federal election Brazeau and Trudeau engaged in a Twitter battle after over whether his handle, “TheBrazman”, was befitting of a senator and saying that it lacked “gravitas”. This lead to a debate over a series of Aboriginal issues from education to murdered and missing women and where Brazeau went as far as saying that the missing and murdered women had already been dealt with.
The remarks were met with outrage across the country from advocacy groups for the murdered and missing women and, in particular, from their families who feel that the Conservatives are trying to sweep the issue under the rug and silence them by defunding national groups that were helping them lobby for action.
But Trudeau doesn’t see taking Brazeau into the ring as something that will detract from the seriousness of these issues. Instead, Trudeau is hoping that his political convictions may give him a bit of an edge.
“I will say that in the people I have asked, and there are a number of Conservatives that I might have asked that I didn’t ask. I didn’t because I am friends with them and I get along with them and I would not want to go into the ring with any sort of hesitation about whether I want to punch this person in the face as hard as I can. There will be no such hesitation against Brazeau,” said Trudeau.
Despite numerous attempts by the Nation magazine, Brazeau’s office was unable to accommodate an interview about the upcoming match and nor would they provide comment regarding the event.
For more info on Fight for the Cure: fightforthecure.ca