Politics may be a blood sport, but death threats are unacceptable

Canadian 2019 Elections: Disliking a candidate or a whole party is one thing. Issuing death threats is another.

Where is the Canada I know and love?

We are in an election campaign and like all such events it is dirty. Candidates do one of two things. Those standing for the ruling party extol their accomplishments and make annoying reference to parties that previously ran the place (NB while listening to a special on CBC’s Quirks and Quarks yesterday I lost count of how many times the Liberal candidate replied to EVERY straightforward question with “During the (Conservative) Harper years…”).

Those who want to unseat the incumbents tend to heap invective on the latter and eventually get to what they will do. It all makes for predictive and uninspiring interactions: no wonder voter participation rates are plummeting.

Mr. Dressup

This fall, Justin Trudeau is seeking re-election and he is in a tough slog. Opinion polls show his Liberals and Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives neck and neck and the outcome seems to be a coin toss. Many Canadians are disappointed with JT and his first four years as Canadian PM. The suave and debonair son of a former PM dashed onto the stage as a young reformer and wowed everybody, Canadians and non-Canadians alike.

And while his term has not been a complete disaster, it has been stained with scandals and embarrassing tendencies for Mr. Trudeau to emulate a Canadian icon: Mr. Dressup (you have to be a fellow Canuck of a certain age to even know who Mr. Dressup is).

As a result there is a groundswell calling for the ouster of Justin Trudeau. All last week the National Post came to my door featuring a full-page advert labelled ‘IT’S TIME FOR A NEW PRIME MINISTER’ (yes, all in caps) and a badge with the hashtag #ULTIMATEHYPOCRITE (yes, all in caps). Looks like there are definitely Justin haters out there.

Disliking a candidate or a whole party is one thing. Issuing death threats is another.

At a rally in Mississauga last night Mr. Trudeau, wearing a bullet-proof vest, was surrounded by a phalanx of serious-looking security guys in the wake of reports from the RCMP that federal leaders are receiving online threats motivated by hate ON A DAILY BASIS (caps intentional), including many that are linked to anti-immigration extremists. A daily basis. In Canada!

Hate speech on the campaign trail

Back in February Michael Wernick, then-clerk of the Privy Council, warned of the dangers of increased hate on the campaign trail noting that he worried about “the rising tides of incitements to violence when people use terms like ‘treason’ and ‘traitor’ in open discourse. Those are the words that lead to assassination.”

In my city, Ottawa, Liberal candidate and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has had to add a security detail – note that this is unheard of in Canada for an MP who is not the PM – after receiving comments like the following (Warning: explicit language):

  • While walking outside a movie theatre with her children a car slowly pulled to a stop beside them and someone yelled “Fuck you, Climate Barbie”;
  • She has been called a cunt, a traitor, an enemy and a “communist piece of garbage”;
  • Her family’s safety has been threatened more than once;
  • Some people have wished she and her children will get fatal diseases; and;
  • She has received hateful sexualised messages.

Disgusting enough?

Politics is an emotional arena and we are justified in registering our displeasure at the gang running the show. We do so by going to a polling station and marking an X on the ballot with the pencil we are given. We do not do so by threatening to kill those whose policies we don’t like. Not only is that ‘un-Canadian’, it is inhuman and we must denounce all who advocate violence regardless of their political stripe.

C’mon Canada – we’re Canadians for God’s sake and political extremism is not in our DNA!

Welsh politician Aneuran Bevin once said “Politics is a blood sport”. He did not mean it literally and we must not allow it to go that way. If you detest Justin Trudeau, or are merely disappointed with what he has done, or just want a change of scenery at 24 Sussex Drive, get out and vote on October 21. If you do not exercise your democratic duty, don’t make puerile online threats, stuff the hate and shut your pie hole.

Speaking of pie, both apple and pumpkin, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. And a very happy one to my fellow Canadians!

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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