RCMP investigating verbal attack on Chrystia Freeland in Alberta

Click to play video: 'Leaders across Canada condemn harassment of Chrystia Freeland'
Leaders across Canada condemn harassment of Chrystia Freeland
WATCH: After deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland was verbally accosted in Grande Prairie city hall last week, leaders across the country are standing up and speaking out. – Aug 29, 2022

The RCMP is investigating after a man verbally attacked Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland during a visit to Alberta last week in the latest of a worsening spate of abuse against women in public roles.

Sgt. Caroline Duval from the national police force confirmed in a statement Tuesday that investigators are looking into the incident, adding that the force “takes threats against public officials seriously.”

“Physical action and statements made in person or online can have a significant impact and can be against the law. When the threshold for a criminal charge is met, the RCMP or the police of jurisdiction may arrest and lay charges,” Duval said in the statement.

“If the criminal threshold is not met, the RCMP examines the threats and derogatory comments from an intelligence perspective. The RCMP has a highly skilled intelligence function dedicated to protective policing.  Generally, only in the event that an investigation results in the laying of criminal charges, would the RCMP confirm its investigation, the nature of any charges laid and the identity of the individual (s) involved.”

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She added that Canadian members of Parliament can receive RCMP protection “as needed” but that the force could not comment on whether such protection was being provided to Freeland.

A video clip of the incident was posted on social media on Friday, and showed a man approaching Freeland while she walked into an elevator at city hall in Grande Prairie, Alta. He hurled profanities at her and called her a “traitor,” while a woman joined in and told Freeland “you don’t belong here.”

Freeland was born and raised in Alberta, and still has family there.

“What happened yesterday was wrong,” Freeland said in a statement posted on her Twitter account. “Nobody, anywhere, should have to put up with threats and intimidation.”

Click to play video: '‘Reprehensible, but not surprising’: Politicians of all stripes condemn harassment against Freeland'
‘Reprehensible, but not surprising’: Politicians of all stripes condemn harassment against Freeland

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino on Monday called the harassment of people in public roles a “threat to democracy,” saying the growing number of incidents are particularly targeting women and people from racialized backgrounds.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the attack on Freeland “cowardly” and on Tuesday, was asked what he thinks is driving the increasing frequency of death threats and other threats against public figures.

“We’ve been through a lot as a country, as a world,” he said, and pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic, anxiety around the impacts of climate change, shifting global economies, and the mental health challenges of the opioid crisis as some of the factors at play.

“It’s a lot of pressure for a lot of people and unfortunately there are no easy solutions for all these challenges we’re facing. It’s going to take hard work, listening to each other, [and] orders of government stepping up,” Trudeau continued.

He said everyone who is in a position of power has a responsibility not to be inciting anger.

“It’s time for people to look to assuage fears and angers, to respond with a positive vision for the future,” he said. “Because people are hurting.”

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