As It Happens·Q&A

Peterborough mayor defends her use of the f-word in response to weekend protest

Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien pulled no punches when she sent an f-word filled tweet out in response to a scene that played out over the weekend. Therrien explained her motivation to As It Happens guest host Susan Bonner.

Diane Therrien explains why she sent out a profanity-filled tweet about a weekend protest

A woman walks on a city sidewalk wearing a floral top and white cardigan.
Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien, seen here in October 2018, said she stands by her use of profanity in her response to protesters, and she'd do it again. (DianeNTherrien/Twitter)

Story Transcript

The mayor of a small Ontario city is getting a lot of attention today — not for ducking a tough question, but for answering one in some very direct terms.

Peterborough mayor Diane Therrien was called on to respond to a scene that unfolded in her city east of Toronto over the weekend. 

A few dozen people had gathered outside the city's police station after a call from a QAnon conspiracy theorist, who purports to be the "Queen of Canada," for citizen's arrests of local officers.

Therrien tweeted her reply. It read, "People have been asking me to comment on the events of the past weekend in #ptbo. I hate giving airtime/spotlight to these imbeciles. Here is my comment: f**k off, you f**kwads."

She spoke to As It Happens guest host Susan Bonner. Here is part of their conversation. 

Why did you think that was the best reaction to what's going on in your city?  

It's a reaction that's been building up for multiple years now. Peterborough has been experiencing protests, occupation, people disturbing the peace in our downtown, in our community, for close to two years now. And, you know, you can't reason with unreasonable people, and sometimes you just have to call it like you see it. 

But why the profanities?  

Well, because I'm a fan of profanities. 

Why is that? I'm trying to understand what it is, why those words appeal to you and why you think they're effective? 

I'm a millennial, so maybe that's part of it. You know, I grew up learning the value of talking scholarly when I have to. I mean, I have a master's degree, so I can talk to you in a scholarly language when I need to. But I can also talk to people on the level that they deserve to be talked to. And these people have treated the city — not just Peterborough, we've seen it in Ottawa, across the country — they treat communities and people with disrespect constantly. And yet they get outraged when we respond with that kind of disrespect. 

So you're meeting them where they live?

I'm meeting them on their level. I mean, again, we've tried to have discourse with these folks for two years now. You know, that's not effective. So sometimes you just have to call it out. And, you know, I'll stand by that. I've done it before and I'd do it again. 

Is it a stunt? Is it a way to get more attention for yourself?

I'm not running again. So at this point, no. I got elected because I've tried to be authentic to who I am and not use canned, normal political messaging. And, you know, it resonates with people. I mean, the response has been overwhelmingly positive because people are tired of seeing this kind of BS happen in their community. 

What kind of response have you had?

On Twitter, which obviously is where this whole thing stemmed from, you know, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I've gotten numerous emails and text messages from other politicians, other people in different communities across the country saying thank you for talking, for standing up and speaking out about this. Of course, there's always going to be some people that are, you know, perturbed by and take great umbrage at the fact that I use coarse language. But, you know, again, men get away with saying this kind of stuff frequently. And when a young woman does it, suddenly there's a different standard. 

You think that a woman politician using profanities will garner a different reaction than if a man were to use the same language?


Can you tell us what it is about these followers of this QAnon woman that made you want to be so harsh in your language and condemnation? 

You know, they came to try to arrest the police. Like, that's the bigger issue that we need to be focusing on, not the language that I used to call it out, but how we've got to this point where that is seen as OK or acceptable, or that's not the focus of this conversation. 

Do you worry that you risk provoking the situation more with your approach, with the language that you use? 

I've been using this approach for at least two years, since we've been dealing with the height of the pandemic. And sure, there's always the risk of provoking it more. But at the same time, what's the alternative? To sit back and let this kind of behaviour continue unchallenged? I'm not going to do that. And quite frankly, no elected officials should be just sitting by and letting that happen. 

Do you think they keep coming back to Peterborough because of the way you react

No, I don't think so. And again, that's the problematic conversation that we're having here, is that I'm somehow to blame for this. No, it's a bigger issue. 

Written by Stephanie Hogan. Interview produced by Katie Geleff. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.