Canadian MP says remarks on child purse-snatchers taken out of context
Last Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2008 | 2:52 PM ET
A Canadian MP blasted by the Indian media over comments she made about the beating of two children who stole an aide's purse says her quotes were taken out of context.
Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla, who represents the riding of Brampton, Ont., is in India on a two-week tour with other parliamentarians.
During a Monday event in the town of Pohir, in the country's Punjab region, a boy and a girl, ages 5 and 9, allegedly stole a purse containing travel documents from Dhalla's assistant.
The purse was retrieved by police within 30 minutes and the children were beaten in the process. Reports about the severity of the beating vary. Many Indian media outlets reported the children were "beaten black and blue."
The CBC's Rohit Gandhi, reporting from New Delhi, said that medical tests on the children — who are now in a juvenile home — found no signs of bruises.
Following reports of the beating, Dhalla was quoted as saying she "cannot control what the police do … and I hope that those young kids learn from this incident." Times Now television called her response "shockingly callous."
"This quote was given in the context that I hoped that they learned the fact that they should not be stealing," Dhalla told CBC News. "It referred to them stealing, and it was also made at a point in time when I was completely, completely unaware of the type of treatment that these young children were subjected to."
In fact, Dhalla said, following the theft she continued with her speech and "asked all the people attending the event and all the community members to forgive the children for their mistake."
She said she didn't know how the children were treated until the following day when she was shown a picture.
"I was completely horrified. I was shocked," she said. "I condemned what happened."
Dhalla said upon learning of the beating she immediately called the chief commissioner of the police in Punjab and asked for the children to be released.
She has also called for an inquiry into the police's handling of the incident.
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