Leg­is­la­tors shouldn’t be a tar­get for abuse

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

This edi­to­rial ap­peared in the Amherst News: Pol­i­tics is a thank­less job. Con­stituents think they own ev­ery mo­ment of your day, from the Tim Hor­tons where you’re pick­ing up a cof­fee, to the gro­cery store, to nights out with your spouse.

That’s part of what politi­cians sign up for: con­stituents don’t see your full day or the amount of time you spend try­ing to solve prob­lems and meet needs — they just see the part of it where they want to talk to you. They elected you. You work for them.

But there are lim­its be­tween the in­tru­sive and the threat­en­ing — and those lim­its are be­ing over­stepped far too of­ten, of­ten against fe­male politi­cians.

The Na­tional Post re­ported Mon­day that there were 412 re­ported in­ci­dents in­volv­ing Al­berta Premier Rachel Not­ley, 26 of which were for­warded to po­lice. Be­fore that, and be­fore so­cial me­dia was be­ing mon­i­tored, there were only 55 se­cu­rity in­ci­dents in the years 2003-2015 — with 19 of those in the last half of 2015, when Not­ley was in of­fice.

In Jan­uary, a sur­vey of fe­male mem­bers of Par­lia­ment in Bri­tain showed more than half had re­ceived phys­i­cal threats, with a third of them con­sid­er­ing quit­ting. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot to death last sum­mer, in­creas­ing fears that more threats could mean a greater like­li­hood of vi­o­lence.

In Al­berta, MLA San­dra Jansen left the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives af­ter en­dur­ing threat­en­ing and abu­sive at­tacks at a party pol­icy con­ven­tion. Here’s a sam­ple of the emails she re­ceived af­ter cross­ing the floor. “What a trai­tor­ous bitch.” “Dumb broad, a good place for her to be is with the rest of the queers.” “Fly with the crows and get shot.”

Nova Sco­tia NDP MLA Lenore Zann told the CBC about “re­ceiv­ing thou­sands upon thou­sands of tweets, to the point where at one point dur­ing that time my cell­phone ba­si­cally stopped. It was over­loaded, sat­u­rated by th­ese hate tweets, hor­ri­ble things. Nova Sco­tia cabi­net min­is­ter Joanne Bernard: “Call­ing me up and telling me you’re go­ing to shoot me is not OK.”

Think it’s all just talk, just an­gry con­stituents blow­ing off steam? Think again. Our leg­is­la­tors have to de­fend their ac­tions. That doesn’t mean, male or fe­male, they have to take your abuse.

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