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Politicians condemn harassment of Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland

A 14-second video posted on Twitter shows a large man berating Freeland over COVID policies
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland is shown at the ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships in Dartmouth, N.S. on Wednesday, August 4, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Current and former politicians from across the Canadian political spectrum have condemned an incident in Alberta during which a man appeared to verbally accost Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland on Friday.

A 14-second video posted on Twitter by an account that voices opposition to COVID-19 public health measures shows Freeland entering an elevator while a large man approaches her, hurling profanities and calling her a “traitor.”

The man in the video looms in front of the open elevator doors and tells Freeland to get out of Alberta, while a woman tells her, “you don’t belong here.”

Another, longer clip shows the man being asked to leave the building and walking outside to a parking lot, where he says “that was perfect timing.”

Freeland had posted photos on social media Friday showing her meeting Jackie Clayton, the mayor of Grande Prairie, Alta., northwest of Edmonton.

The first video shows the man addressing Freeland by her first name and the deputy prime minister turning to face him, saying “yes,” before he begins yelling.

Former deputy Conservative leader Lisa Raitt posted on Twitter saying she felt a knot in her stomach when she watched the video, worried that the man would follow Freeland.

“She hears her name (and) turns … because she is open to engaging with people. He becomes abusive (and) she heads into the elevator,” Raitt wrote, adding, “physical intimidation is not a form of democratic expression.”

Former Liberal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna replied to Raitt, saying she felt the same way while watching the video.

McKenna, who had received additional security for certain events during her time in office, called on “all party leaders” to hold a joint press conference to condemn what she described as an “attack” on Freeland and commit to enhanced security for elected officials.

Cabinet ministers do not generally receive protection from the RCMP, but it can be arranged if circumstances warrant. A number of politicians and pundits took to social media after the incident in Grande Prairie to question whether additional security should become more common.

Michelle Rempel Garner, a former federal cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s government and a current Conservative Member of Parliament from Calgary, also replied to Raitt, describing “the hot, sick feeling of being trapped … of not knowing where to run if it escalates, of being confronted by someone hostile and physically larger than you.”

Many Liberal MPs have voiced support for Freeland, including Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, who tweeted that harassment, intimidation and threatening behaviour must be “condemned by everyone, regardless of political affiliation.”

Defence Minister Anita Anand, meanwhile, wrote on Twitter that she was “appalled by the threats and intimidation” directed at her cabinet colleague.

“This behaviour has no place in Canada. We’ve all run for office to promote dialogue on important public policy issues, and harassment like this cannot be tolerated,” she wrote.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney also spoke out on Twitter, saying the “verbal harassment and threats” directed at Freeland were “reprehensible.”

“You know that our governments have a lot of serious disagreements. But you’re always more than welcome to come and visit us here in the province where you grew up (and) your family lives,” Kenney wrote to Freeland.

Jean Charest, the former premier of Quebec who is vying to become the next federal Conservative leader, condemned the incident as “gross intimidation.” He issued a tweet calling it “dangerous behaviour” that “cannot be normalized.”

Edmonton New Democrat MP Heather McPherson also posted a tweet directed at Freeland, saying she doesn’t always agree with the Liberal government’s decisions, “but on behalf of the vast majority of Albertans who are kind, generous and decent, you are welcome here.”

Freeland herself has not weighed in on the incident, and her office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

– Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press