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EDITORIAL: When political disagreement turns into hate

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others have been the target of vitriolic hate
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau poses for a photo as he greets commuters at a Montreal Metro station on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021. (File photo from The Canadian Press)

Canada’s system of democratic government means people will disagree about politics.

These differences may become passionate at times, but when they move into the realm of threats or concerns about safety, something is wrong.

That’s what happened in late May, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cancelling plans to appear in person at a Liberal fundraiser in British Columbia because of concerns about the possible escalation of an aggressive protest.

READ ALSO: Trudeau cancelled B.C. appearance after RCMP warned protest could escalate: source

READ ALSO: Trudeau cancels appearance at event in B.C. after protesters hurl racial slurs

When concerns about an escalated protest reach this level, the issue is far deeper than partisan disagreements, points of policy or political direction.

Days before this fundraiser, protesters were verbally aggressive with Trudeau’s RCMP protective detail during a stop in Saskatoon.

This is not the first time Trudeau has been the target of this level of vitriol. Between Feb. 5 and March 23, 26 threats were logged against Trudeau and eight of his cabinet ministers. Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party, has also been the target of a level of hate.

Almost a year ago, a Liberal campaign in Bolton, Ont. was cancelled because of the level of anger shown by protesters.

In July, 2020, a man rammed a gate at Rideau Hall in Ottawa before arming himself and making his way towards Trudeau’s home. That effort was thwarted and the man is now serving a six-year prison sentence.

Political figures in Canada will come under intense scrutiny for their words and actions. This is to be expected in a democracy, and there is nothing wrong with drawing attention to decisions made by elected officials.

However, the tone of criticism against some of Canada’s elected officials is not the same as a political disagreement.

Our elected officials at all levels are tasked with a difficult and often thankless job of making decisions on behalf of their constituents. They’re not always popular, and many people will have strong opinions about the choices made by those in government.

When the tone moves from disagreement to threats of violence, the system is broken.

Our democracy deserves better.

– Black Press

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