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‘It’s a human issue’: vulgar slur denounced by Nova Scotia women in politics

Nova Scotia’s female politicians speak out after incident of vulgar harassment
Support for Liberal MP Catherine McKenna is pouring in from across the country after a disgraceful and vulgar slur was spray painted across the front of her Ottawa campaign office. As Alexa MacLean reports, women involved in politics in Nova Scotia say they are often the targets of hate. Now they’re calling for action.

People across Canada are raising their voice in support and condemnation after a vulgar and misogynistic slur was spray-painted on the campaign office of Liberal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.

McKenna’s Ottawa office was defaced overnight Wednesday with red spray-paint.

In a photo of the defacement shared by McKenna’s office with media, the slur could be clearly seen across an image of McKenna’s face on the exterior wall of her campaign office in Westboro, which is part of her riding of Ottawa Centre.

READ MORE: ‘It needs to stop’: McKenna slams political vitriol after office defaced with vulgar slur

“I think it’s not in anyway a partisan issue,” Claudia Chender said, an NDP MLA for Dartmouth South.

“It’s a human issue, it’s a woman’s issue and it’s something that should never happen.”

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While criticism and disdain over the slur was swift, many women who serve as politicians or have a background in political studies say the spray-paint is an everyday example of the realities many of their female colleagues face.

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Vulgar slur shows why more women needed in politics: McKenna

“The difference here is that all the MPs, the Prime Minister, they were getting threats but this is such a gendered threat. This is why some people are calling it a hate crime, basically hate language, because the word itself is so vulgar, as they say, and it’s really used just against women,” said Meredith Ralston, a political and women’s studies professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax.

Politicians and citizens across Canada are commenting on how divisive this federal election campaign felt compared to others but that it doesn’t leave room for hatred.

“It’s a terrible, terrible display of hatred and misogyny and so for those of us who choose public life, particularly for women who choose public life, this kind of often invisible but sadly in this case very visible hatred, is something that’s always under the surface,” Chedner said.

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While this particular slur was directed at a woman who serves as a federal cabinet minister — Rawlston says bullying and threats have become an all too common occurrence in the day and age of social media and anonymity online.

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“Our students are being bullied, when colleagues here do media about anti-racism they get trolled,” Ralston said.

“I think the more people understand what’s going on there and fight back against it, I think that will help,”

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READ MORE: Tory leader pushed to apologize after MP calls minister ‘climate Barbie’

Pamela Lovelace, who has run for municipal office in Halifax, says threats need to be called out and reported as soon as they happen.

“We need to keep talking about bullying, we need to keep talking about criminal harassment and ensure that those folks who are doing it are held to account,” she said.

She adds that discriminatory and hate-fueled remarks have no place in politics or everyday conversations.

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“We do need to stand up and say more about the unacceptance of this kind of bullying and this display of hate, but at the same time we need to make sure that our politicians are not interacting in that way,” she said.

—With files from Amanda Connolly