(Ottawa) The number of death threats against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has more than doubled in 2022 – a year marked by the “freedom convoy” in Ottawa and the invocation of the Emergencies Act to put end to the occupation of the city center of the federal capital.
In all, 18 death threats against Mr. Trudeau were reported to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) last year. In 2021 – a year marked by a federal election – seven death threats were reported to police forces, documents obtained by La Presse under the Access to Information Act show.
The number of threats against Mr. Trudeau has therefore reached a new high, while Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has been promising for several months to implement new measures to ensure the safety of elected officials in Ottawa. Minister Mendicino has also been the target of a death threat for the first time since the authorities made a compilation.
“It’s very worrying, all of this,” says Yan Plante, former chief of staff to Transport Minister Denis Lebel in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. Now a vice-president at TACT, Mr. Plante has been advocating for more security for ministers in Ottawa for several years.
In 2022, 11 ministers in the Trudeau government, or about a third of the federal cabinet, have received death threats. This is almost twice as much as in 2011, when six ministers were the subject of such a threat.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is the only other leader of a political party to have received death threats that have been reported to police. He was the target of four threats in 2021 and one threat in 2022.
“This is a file that seems to be shoveled forward for all sorts of reasons. But it is obvious that it must be one of the priorities to ensure better security for our elected officials. The fact that the number of death threats has doubled is typical of the era in which we live with the proliferation of communication channels such as social networks. And the political climate is quite polarized in Canada after a harsh pandemic,” Mr. Plante said.
Still, the Trudeau government’s slowness to act “is a decision in itself.”
La Presse obtained these documents while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau resumed his habit of participating in public meetings across the country during which he answers questions from participants, whether they are students, construction workers or attendants. personal support services.
“We are not going to stop participating in public meetings even if we see that there are more threats,” said a source close to the prime minister.
Minister Marco Mendicino’s press secretary, Audrey Champoux, says the minister continues to work on a plan to strengthen the security of ministers and elected officials.
“In recent years, there has been an alarming rise in hateful rhetoric, which has resulted in an increasing number of threats and acts of intimidation against elected officials. This is not a partisan issue – it affects people across the political spectrum and specifically targets women, 2SLGBTQ people, Indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups,” Champoux said in an email.
“Minister Mendicino joins many voices across the country in strongly condemning this disturbing increase in threats – and we are taking action. This involves increased security for parliamentarians, including mobile alarms provided by the House of Commons. Most notably, Minister Mendicino’s mandate letter contains specific instructions to “enhance the security of ministers and parliamentarians.” This work is well advanced, in collaboration with the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons, colleagues from other parties and law enforcement across the country. »
“The situation is very, very serious. The security of deputies, ministers, all those who work in the political sphere has deteriorated a lot in recent years. The pandemic has exacerbated the problem. Extremist rhetoric has spread on social media. So we have to act, ”he said in particular.
It was impossible to find out from the RCMP on Thursday how many police investigations are ongoing in connection with the death threats made against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2022.
In recent years, individuals have been accused of making such threats to elected officials. For example, Thomas Dyer, a 32-year-old man, pleaded guilty last August to charges of threatening the death of Justin Trudeau. He had threatened the prime minister, who was in Cambridge during the 2021 federal election campaign.
More recently, André Tisseur, a man from Joliette, was sentenced to nine months in prison after making death threats to Prime Ministers François Legault and Justin Trudeau in videos.
Number of Ministers in Justin Trudeau’s Cabinet
Number of death threats against Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in 2022
Anti-Trudeau and anti-liberal sentiments are on the rise among various groups linked to the far right, observes an expert on these networks. And when this radicalization becomes an integral part of the identity of individuals, it is more complex to fight, explains a psychologist.
“I have never seen, in my life, so much name-calling and rhetoric directed at a prime minister, as is the case with Justin Trudeau,” said Bradley Galloway, coordinator of the Center for Hate Studies , Bias and Extremism from Ontario Tech University in Oshawa, Ontario.
According to his analysis, far-right groups linked to different issues (white supremacism, conspiracy, racism, etc.) converge in their hatred of the Prime Minister of Canada.
“Today, any debate [online] triggers anti-Trudeau or anti-liberal sentiment,” he says. It’s a blame-finding phenomenon that seems to have reached a point of no return. »
For psychologist Geneviève Beaulieu-Pelletier, the pandemic has had an impact on the psychological health of individuals, particularly in 2022, with health restrictions and the “freedom convoy” in Ottawa.
“The pandemic has clearly brought sources of stress”, underlines the one who is also a lecturer and associate professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal.
Social isolation, exclusion, family conflicts, mental health problems: social networks make it possible to develop new bonds, she notes.
Other people may also have a psychological profile with tendencies to paranoia, adds the psychologist. “When I feel like other people – either a group of people or, just that, the government – are a threat, or aren’t there for my good, or represent the ‘bad’, I’m going to end up wanting myself. protect from this threat, “she illustrates.
And sometimes that struggle ends up becoming part of the person’s identity. Indeed, there is a difference between a person who mobilizes to express themselves and assert their values, and a person who feels viscerally in the fight against a “threat”, adds Dr. Beaulieu-Pelletier.
“If, for a person, it’s become an identity to be angry with the government, to defend their values at all costs, and it really turned them on, it’s going to be difficult for them to let go of that,” illustrates the psychologist.
The first step is to openly condemn threats to elected officials in a cross-partisan way, Galloway argues. “So that these groups can’t feel they have power with [officials and elected officials]. We must avoid making space for groups that promote hatred in Canada,” he said.
Elected officials must also be better protected, he decides.
For Geneviève Beaulieu-Pelletier, psychological support should also be provided more systematically to people who have prison sentences, particularly in connection with online threats.
“You have to think about how you accompany these people, because if it’s a system of beliefs that they have built, they will look for facts that complement this system. »