'Enough is enough:' Sandra Jansen not backing down on online hatred hurled at female politicians

Calgary MLA Sandra Jansen sparked an international conversation about sexism when she crossed the floor in the Alberta legislature and revealed some of the abusive comments she received online. She spoke to the Calgary Eyeopener about what's next.

Calgary-North West MLA wants to keep discussion going; will speak at U of C conference Saturday

Nine days after dropping out of the leadership race over harassment claims, Sandra Jansen crossed the floor to the NDP. (CBC)

Calgary MLA Sandra Jansen sparked an international conversation about sexism in politics when she crossed the floor in the Alberta legislature and revealed some of the abusive comments she received online. 

And she's not backing down from the conversation.

She'll be the keynote speaker at a forum for the International Day for the elimination of violence against women held at the University of Calgary Saturday.

Jansen gave a candid account of the past few weeks with the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday. Here is an edited version of their conversation.

Q: How would you describe the last dozen days or so for you?

Certainly they have been tumultuous, I would say that. My decision to step out of the PC leadership race was a tough one. I left that policy conference knowing that there was no place for me in the PC party anymore so I had some big decisions to make.

At the end of the day because I am a legislator first and a party politician second, I had to choose to a find a place to be able to do my job for the next two years with some level of efficacy. So I made that decision after I met with Premier Notley who actually liked my policy ideas, the ones that I brought to that policy conference that no one wanted to talk about.

MLA Sandra Jansen made an impassioned plea to her colleagues in the Alberta legislature on Nov. 22, asking them to stand up against hate speech levelled at women in politics. (CBC)

Q: You stood up in the legislature and you told Albertans the kind of messages you've been getting online. You said you've been called a "bimbo," a "dumb broad" — and those are some of the nicer terms. Why did you choose to air this publicly and what difference has that made for you?

I think it was important for people to understand these were the words. When you're in the legislature in such a hallowed hall, in a place where we try to choose our words as carefully as possible, I wanted people to understand the juxtaposition of what female politicians face the minute they walk out of that hall.

And there's a constant diet of this. From the moment I gave that speech I started getting messages from female politicians from right across this country telling me about their own experiences and what they have been called and it was incredible. The response was overwhelming.

Women were saying "You're right, why do we have to take this? Why does this happen to us every day? Who is going to speak out now? Enough is enough."

Q: This week you've been provided with a security detail. Do you feel physically threatened or unsafe because of the backlash that you've been experiencing online?

I was very concerned and the security detail has been helpful and has given me peace of mind and we hope it's not for very long and I move on and do my job.

My job means that I have to be out in my constituency meeting people, having conversations and doing my work and I'm going to keep doing that.

At the end of the day, the people who do that have to understand they are not going to keep me from the work I do by saying the things they say. 

Q: How do you feel about crossing the floor and what have you heard from your constituents?

The people chose Sandra Jansen.

I'm still the legislator first and I'm their legislator in Calgary-North West. It's a very moderate constituency.

Certainly people are concerned there, but I've had some wonderful outreach from people. My job for the next two years is to do the best by the people of Calgary-North West.

When I sat down with my ideas and met the premier I said to her, I am a fiscal conservative, here are some of the ideas that I think are important. And she liked those ideas. Her tent was big enough for me when the PC tent wasn't.

Q: Do you now have ambitions of being a cabinet minister in the New Democratic government?

The only thing the premier promised me was respect and the ability to do my job in an inclusive environment, and that sounded pretty good to me. The fact that my ideas are respected and heard meant everything.

I have a job to do and want to get back to doing that job. That's what I'm going to focus on.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener