Between violence and vandalism, the parties are experiencing a very ugly campaign
Canadian Anti-Hate Network says it's the worst campaign in recent memory for far-right activity
The three main parties say they've experienced ugly incidents on the campaign trail, ranging from vandalism to assault. Some party operatives say it's the nastiest campaign they've ever experienced.
The RCMP, which provides protection to the leaders of political parties with official party status in the House of Commons, said it has noticed more such incidents during this campaign.
"RCMP protective details have witnessed an increase in numbers in spite of a shorter election period than in 2019," said Cpl. Kim Chamberland.
"The RCMP has also witnessed a rise in incidents that go beyond the typical uptick seen leading up to and during a federal election."
For security reasons, the number of threats since the beginning of the writ period will not be released at this time.
One high-profile incident happened earlier this month when someone threw gravel at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, resulting in charges against a former People's Party of Canada riding president.
Protests are a common sight during any election but many party workers say the ones they're seeing during this campaign have been more alarming. The Liberal Party had to cancel a late August stop due to security concerns.
WATCH | Trudeau, security detail hit by gravel stones
Calgary Nose Hill Conservative candidate Michelle Rempel Garner released a statement earlier in the campaign saying she has been a victim of harassing behaviour on the campaign trail. She said she's been accosted by men with cameras "demanding I respond to conspiracy theories."
"In the last two weeks, I have also received a death threat from someone who called my office in escalating states of verbal abuse over the course of days," she said in an Aug. 28 statement.
"It's unfortunately an all too frequent occurrence for me and many of my colleagues, particularly women, of all political stripes. And this increase in violent language, threats and abuse certainly isn't confined to politics."
Canadian Anti-Hate Network executive director Evan Balgord said that this has been the worst campaign he's seen in recent history in terms of far-right activity, which he sees as largely motivated by the pandemic.
"They believe that there is this awful situation going on, like the apocalypse, right? They think that they're using mask mandates and stuff to kill or kidnap children or render them infertile," he said.
"The scapegoats they've picked are the people they think are the puppet masters — Trudeau, provincial health authorities. And amongst the most hardcore adherents it would be the Jews, the shadow globalists, the elite and so on and so forth."
While the Liberal Party appears to be the prime target, Balgord said members of the far-right see the Conservatives as complicit.
Vandalism, alleged assaults
Liberal candidate Carla Qualtrough, seeking re-election in the British Columbia riding of Delta, said she's seen more expressions of hate and rage during this campaign than in previous years, including anti-LGBT and antisemitic graffiti.
"The police are involved. They're investigating some of the issues that we're facing. So yeah, it's a definite tone and it's hateful and it's unacceptable," she told reporters earlier this week.
"It's not just anger or difference of opinion. It's really spiralled to hateful and unacceptable behaviour."
She's not the only candidate to involve the police. Kitchener South-Hespeler Conservative candidate Tyler Calver said Waterloo Regional Police are investigating after one of his volunteers was assaulted at a campaign office earlier this month.
Greater Sudbury police charged a 56-year-old woman for allegedly assaulting incumbent Liberal Marc Serré in his campaign office in the federal riding of Nickel Belt in northern Ontario. Police said she pushed a table against him, pinning him against the wall.
On the East Coast, Liberal candidate Dominic LeBlanc said he reported vandalism to the RCMP after someone spray-painted a campaign sign with the words "COVID Nazi."
"There have been some other disgusting, personal things," he said. "Somebody spray-painted one talking about my mother, who passed away a year and half ago."
Liberal candidate Anita Anand, seeking re-election in Oakville, said her campaign has seen about 35 per cent of its signs destroyed.
Ottawa South NDP candidate Huda Mukbil said her signs are constantly being torn down.
She blames the vandalism on people opposed to the changing racial and gender makeup of Canadian politics.
"It's particularly difficult for women generally. And then for racialized women like myself, that much more," she told CBC Ottawa.
"So what we have to do is just come together and say that this is unacceptable in Canada."
Balgord said the violence this year follows the trajectory of what's been percolating online.
"We've allowed online hate to just fester in all the online platforms that Canadians use every day," he said.
"When online hate festers like that, people start to think it's normal and acceptable to not just say those things online, but to do those things kind of in person."
People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier was egged at a campaign event earlier this month in Saskatoon.
In an August 26 news release, Green Party Leader Annamie Paul raised concerns about mounting threats to her campaign. The party says that while the Green campaign has not seen any hecklers at press conferences, it's aware of online posts threatening to disrupt events.
'We will not allow them to define us': Trudeau
As the campaign enters its final days, nerves appear frayed.
Trudeau is standing by his response to a heckler who used a sexist slur against his wife.
"Isn't there a hospital you should be going to bother right now?" Trudeau said.
On Thursday, the Liberal leader said he won't step back in the face of protests or harassment.
WATCH | Trudeau to heckler: 'Isn't there a hospital you should be going to bother?'
"We will not allow an angry minority that does not believe in science — and we have a lot of examples of their intolerance of women, the fact that they are racist — we will not allow them to define us and decide the direction we will take to put an end to this pandemic," he said in French.
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole said Friday that many Canadians are upset with the Liberals.
"There's a lot of people in this country who are angry at Mr. Trudeau. He only wants to talk about the protesters because it suits him," he said.
"But there are millions more that are upset with him. Decent, hardworking people who are struggling with higher prices, who are tired of his pious lectures and hypocrisy, especially when it comes to ethics, health or his feminist credentials."
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Trudeau's snide remarks only bait protesters, who Monday had picketed hospitals across the country.
"He shouldn't have been joking about that because it's dangerous and it's really causing problems for lots of people," he said this week.
When asked to comment on campaign violence, the NDP accused Trudeau of sowing divisions with rhetoric that has led to heightened frustrations and backlash.
"Justin Trudeau called a selfish election and throughout his campaign, rather than provide solutions for the challenges families face, he's talked about divisions," said a party spokesperson.
"Families are paying the price for his rhetoric — protesters blocking hospitals and assaulting health care workers, a rise in COVID-19 cases across the province and even violence on the campaign trail."