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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Canada MPs given panic buttons

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Canada MPs given panic button / Credit: REUTERS

Canada’s Members of Parliament (MPs) will be given panic buttons to call police in an emergency, amid growing harassment, intimidation and threats of violence.

The move was announced by Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino who has himself received death threats.

The “very negative and toxic rhetoric that we see online” was very concerning, he said.

Canada’s MPs have also been threatened on the streets and last year PM Justin Trudeau was pelted with rocks.

Mr Mendicino, who said he was threatened last month after introducing a gun control bill in parliament, said the mobile alarms would add another layer of security for politicians.

MPs are also being offered cameras, alarms and other security measures to be installed in their homes, and training on how to de-escalate potentially violent situations.

“We need to have a space where we can have vigorous debates without seeing the level of vitriol and near physical confrontation and out and out incitement to violence and death threats,” Mr Mendicino said.

Several politicians have previously criticised the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which is in charge of their safety, for not taking their concerns seriously.

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One politician in particular has been targeted by abuse.

Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the small leftist New Democratic Party (NDP) and a practising Sikh, was harassed by angry protesters last month during a campaign visit in Peterborough, Ontario.

Video shows the mob shouting expletives at Mr Singh, calling him a “traitor” and wishing him dead.

Mr Singh later said the encounter was one of the “most intense, threatening and insulting” incidents of aggression in his career, and that his staff feared for their safety.

Fellow NDP MP Heather McPherson told CBC news that she was worried about her family’s safety, and has previously received threats to kill her pet dog.

Several MPs have said that the vitriol has intensified since an anti-vaccine mandate protest occupied Ottawa in February and March.

The so-called Freedom Convoy saw the city brought to a standstill as hundreds of lorries blocked roads. Canadian media reported that for a few days during the protest, Mr Trudeau and his family were evacuated to a secret location for their own safety.

Liberal MP Judy Sgro said many politicians were “feeling very unsafe” in the wake of the protests.

She added that she did not take a panic button initially – until someone followed her home one day.

“I think women are more vulnerable and feel much more vulnerable as well,” Ms Sgro said. “So improving security for all parliamentarians, it’s unfortunate, but we seem to be in a difficult time in society right now. [There’s] a lot of nasty, angry, frustrated people.”

In 2020, a man armed with several guns drove a truck through the gates of the estate where Mr Trudeau and his family lived. The man, who had made social media posts about QAnon, said he wanted to talk to the prime minister, but was arrested without incident and later plead guilty.

Last month the PM was forced to cancel plans to appear in person at a Liberal fundraiser in British Colombia after concerns that an aggressive protest outside the event could escalate.

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