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Calgary Centre Liberal campaign says volunteers attacked while doorknocking

Click to play video: 'Calgary Liberal campaign claims volunteers were attacked amid political hostility' Calgary Liberal campaign claims volunteers were attacked amid political hostility
A Liberal candidate says two of her volunteers were victims of an attack while doorknocking in downtown Calgary. As Adam MacVicar reports, the report comes as tensions continue to rise for candidates on the campaign trail. – Sep 7, 2021

The Calgary Centre Liberal campaign has filed a police report after it said two of its volunteers were attacked campaigning in the downtown core on Monday evening.

According to candidate Sabrina Grover, the volunteers were doorknocking in an apartment building when they were approached by a man, slapped and spat on.

“One of our volunteers, this is the first campaign he’s ever worked on, and to have this completely negative, hateful interaction is unacceptable,” Grover told Global News on Tuesday.

“It’s hurtful to see that somebody would react to someone just trying to engage them in a conversation this way.”

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Grover said both volunteers are unharmed but shaken up, and she urged political leaders to stand up and condemn this type of violence.

“Politicians of all stripes need to condemn this,” Grover said.

“This is unacceptable. It’s not OK for volunteers or anyone who is putting their name out there to be subject to this kind of hate or this kind of, in this case, physical assault.”

Calgary Centre incumbent and Conservative Party of Canada candidate Greg McLean also responded to the reported assault.

“This is unacceptable, criminal,” McLean tweeted on Tuesday. “All volunteers should be free to safely work on behalf of their candidate; all citizens should allow them that freedom.”

Read more: Protesters throw small rocks, debris at Trudeau as he leaves Ontario campaign stop

It is the latest incident in a string of harassments and attacks directed at candidates from all parties in the federal election.

On Monday, handfuls of gravel and debris appeared to be thrown by protesters at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau as he left an event in London, Ont.

All of the major federal party leaders have since condemned the actions of the protesters.

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In Calgary, Nose Hill Conservative candidate Michelle Rempel-Garner said she was accosted while eating dinner with her family at a restaurant.

“This type of behaviour is unacceptable and should be condemned by all political leaders and all Canadians who value an open and free exchange of ideas and conversation in a democratic society,” Rempel-Garner said in a statement to Global News.

“Candidates of all political stripes, and particularly women who are often the target of these acts, should feel safe in Canada when putting their name forward on the ballot, and any activity that jeopardizes that safety is reprehensible and damages our democracy.”

The incidents aren’t limited to federal candidates, as municipal election campaigns simultaneously take place across Alberta.

Edmonton Coun. Andrew Knack took to Twitter to share an experience he had while doorknocking after voting in favour of reinstating the mandatory mask bylaw amid the fourth wave of COVID-19.

According to Knack, a voter said: “You should die because you voted for masks.”

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“Thankfully, those are still by far the exceptions to the rule,” Knack said to Global News. “I’ve never had something like that in eight years where somebody has wished death upon me in person.”

Knack noted he knows of other candidates — many of whom are women and visible minorities — that have been treated much worse at the doors than he has.

Read more: Amid campaign security concerns, RCMP says it’s up to leaders whether to attend events

Campaign strategist Zain Velji said Canadians should be concerned about the rise in tensions throughout this election.

Velji, who is also a partner at Norweather, said growing misinformation and the use of technology are two factors that have led to “what was once online behaviour now importing itself into the real world.”

Although political strategy would indicate the use of wedges and dividing issues to create a contrast for a candidate, Velji questioned whether that strategy is the right move for the country as a whole.

Read more: COVID-19, affordability, reconciliation among topics in Canada election debates

Velji said his advice to political leaders in all levels of government is to address the issue rather than using it for political gain.

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“While you might feel like you’re morally on the right side of a question, understand what that does to our democracy, to our civil society and to what might lay at our feet after Sept. 20, after the pressure cooker of an election, when we end up with a community that is more divided than it was at the beginning of this thing,” Velji said.

Back at the Calgary Centre Liberal campaign headquarters, Grover said she hopes incidents like these don’t deter people from running for office, but said the rising tension isn’t a new trend.

“We are not going to let incidents like this intimidate us away from the doors,” Grover said.

“But at the end of the day, if we don’t take a strong stance about it, if we don’t recognize this is a problem and it’s going to continue to grow as a problem, that’s going to hurt us.”

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