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Threats against public figures an issue feds ‘carefully’ looking to address: Trudeau

Click to play video: 'Trudeau reacts to verbal attack on Deputy PM, condemns “cowardly behaviour’'
Trudeau reacts to verbal attack on Deputy PM, condemns “cowardly behaviour’
WATCH: Trudeau reacts to verbal attack on Deputy PM, condemns “cowardly behaviour’ – Aug 28, 2022

Harassment and threats against public figures have become a growing problem across Canada — and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is “carefully” looking to address the problem.

His comments come after a series of threats to high-profile politicians and health-care workers have made headlines in recent months.

“The issue of ministerial security is one we have to take seriously,” Trudeau said, speaking to reporters outside a caucus meeting on Wednesday.

“We’ve seen unfortunately a lot of people are facing intimidation and threats at work, whether it’s health-care workers, whether it’s municipal officials, or whether it’s politicians.”

Read more: Charges laid in Ottawa under new crime of harassing a health worker

The issue is forcing the government “to reflect and … to work very carefully with security agencies, with police forces” to determine how best to keep people safe, Trudeau added.

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In late August, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was cornered outside an elevator in Grande Prairie, Alta., as a man hurled profanities at her while voicing his opposition to COVID-19 health measures. Last month, Quebec’s provincial police force confirmed it had arrested 20 people over the course of the province’s election campaign for threats against candidates or for damage to election-related property.

Less than two weeks ago, former Ottawa mayor Jim Watson testified under oath that, during the “Freedom Convoy” protests in February, a man was charged because he was “coming down here with guns in his trunk to shoot me.”

Health-care workers have also faced a slew of harassment and threats in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. While Canadians used to bang pots and pans on their porches in support of medical professionals in the early days of the pandemic, health-care workers signed an open letter in February condemning the abuse they are increasingly facing while trying to do their jobs.

Click to play video: 'Freeland, Trudeau condemn harassment she faced in Alberta'
Freeland, Trudeau condemn harassment she faced in Alberta

Since that letter was published, the hate hasn’t subsided.

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Just under two weeks ago, a warrant was issued for the arrest of a man in relation to threatening phone calls made to a health-care worker — the first use of a new law the Liberals passed in 2021 that specifically made it a crime to intimidate health workers or their patients.

Speaking on Wednesday, Trudeau said Canada must be “seized” with the question of keeping people who work in the public sphere safe.

“It is really good for Canada that we can see ministers, and people who represent them, just out in the community without having to create distance or barriers between them and citizens, because that allows for a better representation, a better service, and the strengthening of our democracy,” he said.

“At the same time, we have to make sure that people are not afraid for themselves or for their families.”

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