Across the nation, Canadian politicians – current and former, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – have denounced an incident in Alberta during which Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland appeared to have been verbally harassed on Friday.
In a press conference on Sunday, Trudeau said the verbal attack on Freeland is not “an isolated incident.”
“Sadly, this is something more and more common, we’re seeing increasingly — people in public life, people in positions of responsibility, particularly racialized Canadians — being targeted,” said Trudeau.
Trudeau added that Canada needs more women, racialized Canadians and people from diverse communities to be “strong voices” in politics and media.
“Threats, violence, intimidation of any kind are always unacceptable,” said Trudeau. “And this kind of cowardly behavior threatens and undermines our democracy and our values of openness and respect upon which Canada was built on.”
“This kind of behaviour needs to be called out and condemned by everyone, regardless of political affiliation,” he said.
The clip was posted by an account that voices opposition to COVID-19 health measures. It shows Freeland entering an elevator at city hall in Grande Prairie when a man approaches and begins to hurl profanities at her.
“Chrystia,” the man yells and then goes on to call her a “traitor.”
Another woman joins him and tells Freeland, “You don’t belong here.”
Freeland also took to social media to address the situation on Saturday.
“I’m proud to be from Alberta,” she said. “I’m going to keep coming back because Alberta is my home, and because I want to keep meeting with Albertans from across this great province and visiting my family and friends here.”
Freeland said what happened to her was “wrong.”
“Nobody, anywhere, should have to put up with threats and intimidation,” she added.
Freeland also praised the “warm welcome” she received in Alberta over the past few days.
“One unpleasant incident yesterday doesn’t change that,” she said.
Reacting to the incident, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said, “If you disagree with a politician, by all means, exercise your right to protest. But screaming and threatening language and physical intimidation crosses the line.”
Kenney called the “verbal harassment and threats” directed toward Freeland “reprehensible”.
“You know that our governments have a lot of serious disagreements. But you’re more than welcome to come and visit us here in the province where you grew up and your family lives,” he wrote to Freeland.
Freeland posted photos on social media Friday showing her meeting Jackie Clayton, the mayor of Grand Prairie, northwest of Edmonton.
“It cannot be normalized. Every political leader must speak out and condemn this,” he said.
Michelle Rempel Garner, a former cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s government and current Conservative Member of Parliament for Calgary Nose Hill, also spoke out, drawing from personal experience.
“I would never wish upon anyone the fear I’ve felt when physically confronted by people who have stalked me, and who have verbally abused me with video camera in hand, in attempts to intimidate and silence me,” she said.
“No one deserves that. No one. What happened to her should not be normalized or justified.”
Janis Irwin, MLA in Alberta also joined in.
For former deputy Conservative leader Lisa Raitt, she felt a knot in her stomach when she watched the video as she was concerned the man would follow Freeland into the elevator.
“Physical intimidation is not a form of democratic expression,” she said online.
Replying to Raitt, former Liberal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna also felt her stomach in knots while viewing the footage.
She called on “all party leaders” to hold a joint press conference to condemn the “attack” on Freeland, along with also hailing for a commitment to elected officials to enhance security.
Though cabinet ministers do not generally receive protections from the RCMP, it can be arranged if warranted.
During her time in office, McKenna received additional security for certain events.
Rakhi Pancholi, another MLA in Alberta, said she’s “sickened and angry” over the incident.
“I am tired of asking for it to be called out because the people who most need to do that are the ones tacitly and explicitly encouraging it,” she said.
— With files from the Canadian Press