$data.PageTitle

Conservative MP Arnold Viersen asked NDP MP Laurel Collins if sex work is an "area of work" she has ever considered during a House of Commons debate on Tuesday.

Viersen later apologized "unreservedly."

The politicians were debating an opposition day motion from the Conservatives, which asked the House to condemn a recent parole board decision.

After serving 15 years for the murder of his wife in 2004, 51-year-old Eustachio Gallese was granted day parole in September, 2019. On Jan. 22, while out on parole, Gallese entered a Quebec City hotel where 22-year-old sex worker Marylene Levesque gave massages. Police later arrested and charged him with her murder.

Beyond asking the House to condemn this decision, the motion calls on the government to instruct the public safety committee to conduct hearings into the matter, including a review of the changes made in 2017 to the parole board's nomination processes.

During the debate, Collins asked Viersen to consider listening to the voices of sex workers.

"Sex workers are saying that sex work is work," Collins said.

"I would just respond to that by asking the honourable member across the way if it's [an] area of work that she has considered, and if that is an appropriate-" Viersen replied.

He was cut off by heckling in the House, including voices yelling "shame."

Viersen then explained that he was trying to make the point that he does not believe "any woman in this country" chooses to become a sex worker.

"Prostitution in Canada is inherently dangerous…we do not want to see our women and girls forced into prostitution," Viersen said.

After the exchange, NDP MP Jack Harris rose on a point of order, calling the comments "insulting and unparliamentary" adding that "the sex workers who are in great danger in this country are, in fact, workers."

In response, Viersen clarified his remarks.

"I in no way mean to have any effect on the reputation of the honorable member in question," he said, in reference to Collins.

"What I do want to say is the very fact that I must tread delicately on this means that – makes my point, I think, about the nature of prostitution."

He later rose to say he was sorry to Collins.

"I'd like to apologize unreservedly for my comments towards the member from Victoria," Viersen said.

With files from CTV News Montreal's Stephane Giroux