Senator apologizes for use of N-word

Pratte said he was trying to make the point that there are limits to free speech

OTTAWA — Sen. Andre Pratte apologized Thursday for using a notorious racial slur during a Senate committee hearing, where he uttered the so-called “N-word” as an example of an epithet that should never be used.

In an interview with the The Canadian Press, Pratte said he was trying to make the point during Wednesday’s hearing that there are limits to free speech when speaking about people, especially those who are vulnerable and subject to discrimination.

“In making that point, I mentioned black people, for instance, and that’s when I used the word,” Pratte said.

If he offended people by using the word in that context, he apologizes unreservedly, Pratte said.

“Obviously I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings,” he said. “I accept it was an improper choice of example … and I apologize that for that.”

Committee witnesses at the Senate legal affairs committee were making free speech arguments while debating the Liberal government’s legislation to bar discrimination on the basis of gender identity or gender expression.

If passed, the legislation would make it illegal to deny someone a job or to discriminate against them in the workplace on the basis of their gender identity or how they express it.

It would also amend the Criminal Code to extend hate speech laws.

Pratte, who joined the Senate 2016 following a 35-year career in journalism, supports the bill.

“It is simply a matter of protecting transgender people from discrimination,” he said. “It is a very simple bill, really.”

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