Homes of councillor, medical officer of health in Niagara region targeted with graffiti, protest

Dr. Hirji and St. Catharines town councillor Karrie Porter were the targets of anti-vaccine protesters overnight Tuesday in Niagara.

Niagara police say they are investigating vandalism at the home of Karrie Porter; no arrests made

Dr. Mustafa Hirji, Niagara's medical officer of health, was the target of a demonstration outside his home Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021. (Niagara Region/Twitter)

Warning, this story contains offensive language.

Two public officials in the Niagara region were the targets of seemingly anti-vaccine or anti-COVID regulation protesters overnight Tuesday. 

St. Catharines councillor Karrie Porter said she received a message from a concerned neighbour Wednesday morning about hateful spray-painted messages on the side of her home.

She shared images of the messages on social media Wednesday, calling them "a pathetic display of cowardice and weakness."

The derogatory remarks included "F--k you Marxist B----h" and "united non-compliance."

"I don't live alone. I have children, I have a husband and I have neighbours; and before people do something like this again, they really need to think about that," Porter later told CBC News. 

Elsewhere, earlier on Tuesday evening, the residence of Niagara's medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji, was also the target of a protest. 

A group of protesters gathered outside of Hirji's house Tuesday evening, in what at least one protester, who claimed to be present, said on social media was an attempt to have their "ignored questions" answered.

Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) officers say they were called to the scene at 7:30 p.m. and arrived to see approximately 14 people involved in a demonstration, they told CBC Wednesday.

Police said no charges were laid in relation to the protest. There are no laws that prohibit protesting at the personal dwelling of an individual, police said, but a protest would cross the line if it extended onto private property of a residence and people were trespassing. 

"The NRPS is monitoring the situation closely, while balancing charter issues and public safety concerns. The role of the police is to ensure continued public safety and to preserve the peace. We recognize that protests and demonstrations can be frustrating to the community as a whole," they said. 

"The Service has and continues to review case law and seek legal opinion as it relates to Canadian Charter of Rights... The Service is also very alive to the concerns of public officials and servants and have had direct contact with them to ensure their continued safety as well."

In a video on Instagram, the person who claimed to be part of the protest said it "couldn't have been more respectful," because the group stayed off of Hirji's property, arrived after dinner time and, they said, only stayed for one hour because they wanted to be mindful of children's bedtimes in the neighbourhood.

Videos show the use of flashlights and megaphones pointed at Hirji's home, in an attempt to have him come outside to answer questions.

Hirji has responded to CBC News saying that he had no comment at this time.

'This has crossed the line'

Porter meanwhile said she is no stranger to protesting but there is a more effective and appropriate way to have a conversation than vandalizing someone's home.

"As a city councillor I'm here to listen, I'm here to have disagreements. I actually enjoy political debate and discussion, and I encourage that, but this has crossed the line," Porter said.

She said she was grateful to have been notified by a neighbour through a picture sent to her phone, rather than having her children seeing it before she noticed.

Many messages of support for Porter were shared online following her Tweets Wednesday.

Porter said that support will be important to share with her children. 

"I will be showing my children all of the messages later today, I think it's important for them to see the messages of solidarity to understand that this was a cowardly act by maybe one or two individuals, working in isolation, who are trying to intimidate me and intimidate politicians and create a climate of fear," Porter said. "We have to show our children that it's actually not going to work."

Niagara Regional Police Service confirmed that an investigation of the overnight vandalism at Porter's home is currently underway but did not provide any more information.

Porter said that police told her a forensics unit would be sent to her home for further analysis of the graffiti.

"People are really struggling right now, and I understand that," Porter said.

"We have to deal with a lot of emotion right now and political disagreements, but this isn't the way forward."