Politics

RCMP investigating rape threat against Pierre Poilievre's wife

The RCMP confirmed Monday that it is looking into a threat of sexual violence directed at Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre's wife, Anaida Poilievre.

Far-right activist Jeremy MacKenzie made the comments in an online stream

Pierre Poilievre’s wife targeted with rape threat by far-right activist

2 months ago
Duration 2:00
WARNING: This story contains distressing details. A far-right activist made threats of sexual violence against the wife of Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre during a livestream. Now, the RCMP is investigating.

Warning: This story contains sexually graphic details that may be disturbing to readers

The RCMP confirmed Monday that it is looking into a threat of sexual violence directed at Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre's wife, Anaida Poilievre.

Poilievre denounced the threat from far-right political commentator Jeremy MacKenzie and said his office contacted law enforcement about the matter. 

An RCMP spokesperson told CBC News Monday that it's looking into the report.

"We can confirm that the matter has been referred to the RCMP and we are reviewing the information provided," they said in an email. 

"Only in the event that criminal charges are laid would the RCMP be in a position to confirm the nature of the complaint or any individuals allegedly involved."

Jeremy MacKenzie, the leader of the Canadian far-right group Diagolon, made the threats over the weekend in a stream on the social media app Telegram while speaking with a guest, Alex Vriend.

"Let's rape her," MacKenzie said. "It's not really a sex thing. It's like we just want to show people that we can do things to you if we want to. It's a power move."

MacKenzie made several racist and derogatory remarks about Anaida Poilievre's Venezuelan background in the stream.

Anaida Poilievre was born in Venezuela and grew up in Montreal. Pierre and Anaida married in 2017 and have two children. Pierre Poilievre was elected Conservative leader earlier this month and Anaida Poilievre works as a political staffer on Parliament Hill.

In a statement posted to Twitter Monday, Poilievre said his office has contacted the RCMP about the comments.

"My office has referred these comments to the RCMP to assess whether criminal charges should be laid," he said in the statement.

Jenni Byrne, the head of Poilievre's transition team, told CBC News she called the RCMP on Saturday after she was made aware of the threat. Byrne said she would be meeting with the Mounties to discuss the situation. 

"These men are dirtbags," Poilievre said in the statement. "Frankly, like most Canadians, until about a month ago I had never heard of Diagolon and these losers. They are all odious.

"This kind of garbage has no place in Canada. No one should face this abuse.

"People can attack my politics, they can call me names, they can protest my ideas and what I stand for. But threatening my wife and family is appalling and I will not tolerate it. Leave my family alone."

In an interview with The Canadian Press, MacKenzie said he was drinking when he made the comments and meant no harm by them.

Politicians, journalists and other public figures — especially women and people of colour — have been facing an increase in acts of harassment and threats in recent months.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced threats and hatred in response to a reporter's question Monday. He didn't mention Poilievre specifically.

"No one should ever be subject to threats of violence or the kind of hatred that we've seen increasingly in the public discourse, in the public sphere," Trudeau told a news conference.

"It's important that we all stand up and condemn that, and we all look for ways to ensure that everyone feels safe in this country."

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also denounced the threat.

"No one should be threatened with sexual violence. Not journalists, not politicians, not anyone's family, not anyone," Singh said in a tweet Monday.

He called on political leaders to work at stopping violent extremism.

"The rise of violent extremism in Canada should be a concern for all leaders. If there's political will, we can do something to stop it," he said.

Mark Gerretsen, a Liberal member of Parliament representing Kingston and the Islands, tweeted Monday that he also received a sexual assault threat directed at his wife. He posted the message in his tweet and said both Kingston Police and the Parliamentary Protective Service have opened files on it.

"I 100% agree with Pierre Poilievre on this," Gerrettsen said in the tweet. "Attack me all you want. Leave our families out of this."

Who is Jeremy MacKenzie?

MacKenzie, who is 36, has attracted attention for his support of the anti-vaccine mandate convoy protest which occupied Ottawa earlier this year, and for his leadership of far-right group Diagolon.

A spokesperson for the Department of National Defence told CBC in an email that MacKenzie served in the Canadian Armed Forces. They said MacKenzie enrolled in 2003 and released in 2017, adding he was an infantryman with the Royal Canadian Regiment and that he had one deployment to Afghanistan.

An Instagram account bearing MacKenzie's name describes him as a "Sub-Standard podcaster, Sit-down comedian Super Villain, Sardonic Emperor of Diagolon, Very Scary."

The Saskatchewan RCMP charged MacKenzie in July with assault, pointing a firearm, using a restricted weapon in a careless manner and mischief. Nova Scotia RCMP charged MacKenzie with 13 gun-related charges in June.

Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University, said that Diagolon aims to establish a "white ethnonationalist state" which would run diagonally from the Pacific Northwest through Canada to Florida.

Perry said her group started to look into Diagolon after police in Coutts, Alta., found the group's patch on body armour while executing a search warrant. Two men arrested in relation to border blockades in Coutts in February have ties to MacKenzie and Diagolon.

Barbara Perry, director of the Centre for Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University, said Diagolon aims to establish a "white ethnonationalist state" stretching from the Pacific Northwest to Florida. (CBC)

"So the idea is ... to accelerate some form of civil war," Perry said. "[MacKenzie] feels, and some of his followers believe, that we are already in the midst of a racial war in which white men, in particular, are losing, so it's time for them to stand up and fight back.

"So they would like to 'accelerate' that civil war, if you will, and replace the current order with this white ethnonationalist state."

Perry said that while Diagolon lacks concrete plans, the group's narrative is violent and aggressive — and may inspire violence.

"The narratives themselves are dangerous because of the potential consequences," she said.

Perry said that MacKenzie may have seen Anaida Poilievre's ethnicity and gender, as well the fact that she has children with Pierre, as an opportunity to highlight his racist, misogynist narrative.

Poilievre shook hands with MacKenzie at an event in August. In a statement issued to Global News, he denied knowing MacKenzie.

"My campaign events are public. There is no registration and anyone can walk in ... It is impossible to do a background check on every single person who attends my events," Poilievre said in the statement.  "As I always have, I denounce racism and anyone who spreads it." 

Perry said MacKenzie also may have threatened Poilievre because of Poilievre's new status as leader of the opposition.

"So now, to the extent that Poilievre is the leader of a primary political party in Canada, he is now part of the machinery. He is, because of that leadership role, part of the state to which [Diagolon is] so opposed," Perry said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Raycraft

Web writer and producer

Richard is a web writer with CBC News and an associate producer with CBC Radio. He's worked at CBC in London, Ont., Toronto, Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa.

With files from CBC's Hannah Thibedeau and David Fraser of The Canadian Press

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