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Jean Chretien Can't Stop Choking People

They were re-enacting the "Shawinigan Handshake."

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Jean Chrétien and Bob Rae are both former leaders of the Liberal Party of Canada. Something else they have in common: They like to choke each other.

Darren Calabrese / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The two met up at Dalhousie University this week for the launch of a new public policy institute. Before they sat down for a discussion, Chretien wrapped his hand around Rae's neck and jokingly choked him for a few seconds, as one does.

Rae later returned the favour, sneaking up on Chrétien at dinner and choking him from behind.

One good handshake deserves another ! It was a good day yesterday in Halifax for the MacEachen Institute.

Chrétien and Rae's choking gag is a reference to the famous "Shawinigan Handshake" — when, as prime minister, Chrétien choked an anti-poverty protester who got in his way.

Phil Nolan / The Canadian Press

The activist, Bill Clennett, lost a tooth as a result of the confrontation with Chrétien. He was protesting cuts to employment insurance at a flag day event in Hull, Quebec, in 1996.

(Of course, Bob Rae also has some experience with choking. See: his time as premier of Ontario.)

Chrétien never apologized for the incident, and he has made light of it in the years since. Although his actions were deemed "un-prime ministerial" at the time, he was given a pass by the public because a knife-wielding intruder had broken into his home just months earlier. So it wasn't unfathomable that he might be somewhat jumpy.

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It's kind of his "thing" now.

I've always admired Jean Chretien's commitment to choking people.