A day after the government announced that MPs would receive personal panic buttons, lawmakers told CBC News stories of harassment and intimidation.
Buttons, also known as “mobile deuce alarms”, can be used to alert the Parliamentary Security Service (PPS) or the local police.
Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino said this week that his office, PBS and law enforcement were reviewing security for members of parliament after several threatening incidents this year. Mendicino said he received several death threats through social media.
He is not alone.
Liberal MP Chris Pitt will not say whether he is carrying the panic button. He said he received about 20 death threats, all of which were sent to the police. He said there have been some penalties as a result.
Pitt said the threats came as a surprise to him when he entered politics.
“I know people will be angry at us. I did not expect all the death threats,” he said.
“There are a lot of angry people out there and a lot of political language, including words like ‘traitor’ that are used freely, including by politicians.
“If you believe someone is a traitor or worse … it can lead to violence.”
See | Trudeau, Minister of Public Security and MPs talk about panic buttons
Liberal MP Judy Scroo said the threats and harassment of MPs now feel “much worse” than in previous years.
He suggested that the anti-vaccine order Freedom Conway, which invaded Ottawa in February and March this year, was a turning point.
“Things have changed a lot in the last few years,” he told CBC News. “Especially after the convoy issue, most of us feel very insecure.”
Despite giving parliamentary security MPs personal panic buttons before Monday’s announcement, Scroo said she did not pick one up at first – until one day she was followed by someone on her way home.
Sgro said strangers lamented their COVID-19 vaccine status and the restrictions that came with it. When the stranger finally left she said she was going to call 911.
‘Bad, angry, frustrated people’
“I think women are the most vulnerable and the most vulnerable,” Scroe said.
“So it is unfortunate to improve security for all MPs, but we are in a difficult time in the community right now. [There’s] Lots of bad, angry, frustrated people. “
He said he feels safe now carrying the panic button.
Earlier this month, Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner said the Independent Convoy shows that the occupation court needs extra protection.
Liberal MP Yasir Naqvi said he was personally concerned about the safety of his family, although he did not personally feel the need for the panic button.
“For me, my family is my biggest concern – they are provided by the House of Commons to ensure that I always have appropriate security measures in place at home to ensure they are safe,” he said.
Conservative MP Don Albaz said the increase in angry rhetoric was contrary to the friendly reputation of Canadians.
“Canadians are known as a loving people. We want the best for everyone. So we need to start more conversations about how we can bring our conversations, especially our political conversations, in those ways,” Albaz said.
Conservative MP Ben Loeb acknowledges that political rhetoric has become more heated in recent years.
“The rhetoric is so much more … it’s so different than it was 10 or 15 years ago,” he said.
“I do not know if it’s social media or in some cases the state of mental health of the people, but I think everyone should relax a little. Do not think that every problem is the end of the world threatening people.”
But Lope also questioned how effective a panic button can be when someone is violent with a politician.
“In a lot of cases, I think it’s too late to press the button, when you’re under attack,” he said.
The security chief of parliament questioned the inaction of the police
Sergeant-at-Arms Patrick McDonnell, who is the parliamentary defense chief, is now training MPs to expand in the hope that such attacks can be prevented.
On Tuesday, McDonnell, McDonnell, McDonnell, said it was “dazzling” how the Ottawa City Police allowed the persecution of MPs and parliamentary staff during the Independence Convoy struggle.
On Tuesday, he told a parliamentary committee that MPs and their staff face harassment almost every day on Wellington Street in Ottawa, which falls under the jurisdiction of the local police.
McDonnell said there was a police car “within sight” of the events he described, and that the incidents were reported to Ottawa Police “every day”.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government was focused on tackling the growing threat of violence.
“Unfortunately, we know there is a significant amount of anger and frustration against the government and the authorities,” Trudeau told reporters.
“We want to make sure that anyone who comes forward to serve their community is safe at any level of politics. We take that very seriously.”
The involvement of politicians could pose a threat to diversity, says MP
NDP MP Heather McPherson said in a media scramble on Tuesday, at one point in January, that she was too worried about her family’s safety and called home to make sure the doors were locked.
He said people on the internet threatened to kill his dog.
Speaking about the need to protect politicians, McPherson cited the assassinations of two UK MPs, Joe Cox in 2016 and David Ames in 2021.
“We see what happened in the UK, we see what happened to parliamentarians in other countries, and we do not think it is wise to wait until a situation like this happens in Canada. I think we will act on security. It is necessary,” he told reporters.
He said these threats could compromise the involvement of politicians with the public.
“I want to eat barbecue, give ice cream, I want to be in the community,” he said. “I want people to be available to talk to me. And because my person is a threat, we need to seriously consider the pros and cons of running public events that we widely advertise.”
McPherson said he did not need to use the panic button, although he did keep one in his office and carry one with him.
He said he feared people would become insensitive to stories of violent threats against those in politics and government. He said the threatening environment may encourage women and people of color to compete for the post.
“We have to be very careful, so we’ll not be like the frog in the cold water,” McPherson said.
“We can not normalize this. We can not normalize violence against those who run for office and those who hold office. Because doing so will deeply affect our democracy.”