Calgary

Alleged cyber attacks on MLA Leela Aheer's Facebook accounts lead to RCMP investigation

Aheer wrote on Twitter that her Facebook accounts had been hacked and were "being used for sexual exploitation."

'To whomever perpetrated this attack … you will not win. I will not back down,' she says

Leela Aheer gives emotional news conference detailing impacts of cyber attack

3 months ago
Duration 1:27
RCMP investigating after social media accounts for UCP MLA and leadership candidate Leela Aheer were hacked and included child sexual exploitation content.

Alleged cyber attacks on United Conservative Party leadership candidate Leela Aheer's social media have led to an RCMP investigation. 

At an emotional news conference Wednesday, the Alberta MLA for Chestermere-Strathmore told media that police are investigating attacks on her personal and political Facebook pages. 

On Tuesday, Aheer posted on Twitter stating her Facebook accounts had been hacked and were "being used for sexual exploitation."

The screenshots Aheer posted on Twitter indicated that the Facebook posts allegedly made by hackers included child sexual exploitation content.

At the news conference, Aheer thanked Chestermere and Strathmore RCMP for their quick response to her reporting of the incident.

"To whomever perpetrated this attack on myself and my family, you will not win. I will not back down," Aheer said while holding back tears.

Aheer said she would be meeting with RCMP later Wednesday and the case was still being investigated.

While Aheer said she doesn't know why exactly the attacks happened, she believes they were targeted. She also said she'd be taking precautions to prevent further hacking of her accounts but did not specify what those measures would be. 

The attacks on Aheer's Facebook accounts come after a Calgary woman posted audio recordings on Twitter of multiple abusive phone calls she received from people claiming to work for UCP leadership candidate Danielle Smith's campaign. 

Smith said on Twitter that the calls were fake and did not come from her campaign.

On Wednesday, UCP leadership candidate Rajan Sawhney spoke out against the alleged attack.

On Thursday, other UCP candidates, Smith, Brian Jean and Travis Toews, posted on social media about the need for action from law enforcement. 

In a social media post, Jean said that if the attacks turn out to have been political, it must be prosecuted "to the fullest extent of the law."

Smith said there has been an uptick in underhanded attacks on conservative women in the past week.

"I sincerely hope the issue is rectified quickly, and that the police are able to identify and charge the culprit(s)." 

"There is no place in Canadian politics for this and no place anywhere for the exploitation of children," Smith wrote in a tweet. 

Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Mount Royal University, said silence from politicians makes them complicit in the larger issue of harassment that many women involved in politics face.

"Female politicians, particularly those of colour, receive a lot more abuse than white men do," he said.

Aheer believes attacks were targeted

Aheer mentioned multiple times at the news conference how she has "outlined her principles" over the past few weeks.

"I will never tolerate bigotry in a government that I lead, and I believe that these attacks on my account were driven by people who want to silence my voice and derail our campaign," she said.

Last Friday, the MLA spoke out against an upcoming UCP leadership debate co-hosted by a pro-independence group, the Alberta Prosperity Project (APP), and Rebel News, a right-wing media group. 

"White supremacy, homophobia & racism have been supported & encouraged for too long in politics," she stated on Twitter.

"Anyone participating in the Prosperity Project / Rebel Media Debate, should be held accountable for supporting this toxic culture."

Leadership candidates Jean, Todd Loewen and Smith are still attending Friday's debate. But former ministers Travis Toews and Rebecca Schulz backed out of the event late last week.

The RCMP are investigating the alleged cyber attacks on Aheer's personal and political Facebook accounts. (PabloLagarto/Shutterstock)

In response to Aheer's tweets criticizing the debate, APP issued a release Tuesday stating that the MLA's "misguided defamatory comments" about the group have insulted its "multi-ethnic members."

"Aheer owes an apology to those Albertans who value their individual freedoms, rights and prosperity, but I question whether she has the class do so," APP CEO Dennis Modry said in the release.

According to Bratt, it's no coincidence the attacks on Aheer's account came after she spoke out against racism, white supremacy and homophobia. 

"There's an anger in this province," he said.

Referring to the convoy protests in Alberta and Ottawa, Bratt said there is growing anger across the country and province toward government, and the attack against Aheer is just another example of that pattern. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tarini Fernando is a web writer at CBC Calgary and master's student at the University of Calgary. She can be contacted at tarini.fernando@cbc.ca.

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