On January 19, 2018 a man from Alberta was arrested for uttering threats against Albertan Premier, Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The threats were published on the man’s Twitter account, which has since been suspended. As a result of the charges, the accused is “prohibited from using social media and possessing weapons.” Previously, this man was also convicted for carelessly using/storing a firearm, and for, “unauthorized possession of a firearm.” This led to the man having a “six-month conditional sentence, one year of probation, and a 10-year firearm prohibition.” His court appearance addressing the current charges will be held at the Provincial court in Leduc, on February 8, 2018.
This case draws attention to the fact that while we live in a society that respects freedoms of speech and expression; individuals who are representing their communities in politics should not have to fear for their safety or endure abusive threats. Premier Notley has “been subject to more threats of harm than any other Albertan Premier since 2003.” According to statistics released by Alberta Justice, Notley was “the target of 412 incidents of what was termed inappropriate contact or communication between Jan. 26, 2016…and Dec. 19, 2016,” alone. For example, a man from Lethbridge posted on Facebook that “‘someone’s gotta man up and kill her,’ while another suggested someone should ‘put a pitchfork through [Notley’s] neck.’”
An article from CBC News explained that female politicians are commonly receiving abusive comments online, “something their male counterparts simply do not experience to the same degree.” In the article, Nancy Peckford, who is the Executive Director of an organization called ‘Equal Voice’ recognized that, “increasingly women are having to face very real—often online but not exclusively—cyberbullying and it’s really hate-filled misogyny in many, many cases that really underscores a lack of comfort and intolerance for the role that women are increasingly assuming in public office.” The threats that female politicians receive online often extend beyond their personal safety to include, “threats of sexual violence.” Peckford explains that when threats against politicians and in particular female politicians are made, we need to engage in a “public conversation” to strategically address how to discourage these threats, and “call on Canadians at large,” to stand up and not condone such behaviour.
This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.