New Democrat Brittny Anderson, who represents the southeastern riding of Nelson-Creston, said she and her staff were “aggressively harassed” at a highway rest stop on Friday while travelling between Creston and Nelson.
“In this case, the man involved screamed at us about vaccinations,” Anderson tweeted on Saturday.
“His actions became so aggressive, and subsequently so did those of his passenger, that we had to run for our car to remove ourselves from the situation.”
The alleged incident took place at the top of the Kootenay Pass, Anderson said in an interview on Monday, as the team stopped to film a “thank you video” for people they had met in the past few days.
That’s when another vehicle pulled up in the parking lot “really close” to them, she told Global News, and started “pretty aggressively” asking questions about public health orders.
“It got really elevated really quickly, and it started to feel unsafe,” said Anderson.
A colleague stepped in to end the conversation, she said, but when the driver “started screaming at her,” they decided to leave. Anderson and the staffer started walking towards their vehicle on the other side of the parking lot, but ended up running there instead.
“They started to drive towards the vehicle, which made us nervous that they were gonna either block us from leaving, or damage the vehicle or that they could be an incident of violence,” the MLA explained.
“They parked near us but didn’t block us and once they actually stepped out of the vehicle we felt that was the safest opportunity for us to continue on our journey.”
They don’t believe they were followed, said Anderson. Since then, she said she has received three emails from the alleged harasser that contains “abusive” and “misogynistic” language.
Anderson has contacted both RCMP and legislature security about the incident.
In a Twitter thread, Anderson said harassment of politicians and political staffers is a cross-partisan problem that has impacted their ability to “keep a welcoming office” to serve their communities.
Schools, vaccine clinics and hospitals have been impacted, she added, leading the B.C. government to introduce new legislation in November to restrict protests around those facilities.
“Members of the media have faced similarly aggressive tactics,” Anderson tweeted.
On Sep. 1, thousands of B.C. residents opposed to vaccine mandates and various public health restrictions protested outside hospitals across the province.
On Vancouver Island, health-care workers were “verbally abused” and one person was assaulted, according to the Island Health. In Vancouver, some shouted, “Lock her up!” in reference to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Later that month, in the Southern Interior, an entire school district was locked down after protesters entered three schools and served a “notice of liability,” before moving on to a COVID-19 vaccine clinic.
“This kind of behaviour is not ok. It does nothing to further the civil, respectful conversations that we need to be having as community members to move our province forward in the best way,” Anderson tweeted Saturday.
In the interview, Anderson said it’s okay for people to disagree with each other, but they must continue to be kind and have “respectful dialogue.”
As an elected official, she said her office is an appropriate place to protest but the level of aggression demonstrated by protesters in recent months is “scary.”
“It’s changing society and that scares me,” she told Global News. “I think we need to get back to a place of listening and mutual respect.”
Vaccines and adherence to public health orders are the best way to ensure everyone’s safety, added the MLA, who was elected in 2020 and formerly served as a city councillor.
In a brief statement to Global News, Creston RCMP said it is aware of the incident and investigating.