British Columbia

B.C.'s chief health officer says she's received death threats, abuse

The chief provincial health officer in B.C. says she's received death threats during the COVID-19 pandemic.

'I've had to have security in my house,' Dr. Bonnie Henry says during talk on pandemic leadership

Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about death threats and added security

2 years ago
Duration 1:31
B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer talks about concerns over her safety as she handles the COVID-19 pandemic.

The chief provincial health officer in B.C. says she's received death threats during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says she has also received abusive letters and her staff has been harassed, all of which has caused concern for her personal safety. 

"There are many people who don't like what I do, or don't like the way I say it, or don't like my shoes and feel quite able to send me nasty notes, to leave phone calls, to harass my office staff," she said during a panel presentation at the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

"I've had to have security in my house. I've had death threats. How do we deal with that?''

Henry says she believes the attacks are partly because she is a woman in a high-profile position, and people feel comfortable targeting her in ways they would not necessarily target a male leader. 

"I sense that people find that it's OK for a woman who is upfront more so than some of our male leaders. But I could be wrong — maybe it is that we just don't talk about it."

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.'s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Her comments about the death threats came during a panel presentation on leadership during the pandemic, where she was speaking alongside Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin and former Tsawwassen chief Kim Baird.

She said it's important to have open discussions while trying to mentor the next generation of leaders.

"If we're going to go bring up the next generation of diverse and confident leaders, we need to be able to talk about those things. We need to be able to make it not OK for any of us to get that type of abuse, really," said Henry.

Victoria Police say they're aware of the threats made to Henry, adding they take them seriously and are conducting a risk assessment to determine the nature of the threats.

Const. Cam MacIntyre said it is disappointing Henry and her staff have had to experience "this type of ignorance" while dealing with the global pandemic.