Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says she was recently walking outside a movie theatre with her children when a car slowly pulled to a stop beside them.
The driver rolled down his window and then he let fly.
“F–k you, Climate Barbie,” he shouted, as she tried to back away from his car and get her kids away from him.
Much has been written about the online abuse and threatening behaviour politicians — especially female politicians — and others in the public eye face every day. But McKenna says as the heat around climate change continues to grow, that abuse is going from anonymous online vitriol to terrifying in-person verbal assaults.
The incident at the movie theatre is just one of several times her kids have been with her when someone in public began to yell at her. She has been called the C-word, a traitor, an enemy and a “communist piece of garbage.” Her family’s safety has been threatened more than once. Some people have wished she and her children will get fatal diseases. She has received sexualized messages so hateful they could be enough to make even the hardest of hearts skip a beat.
“Tick Tock, Barbie B—h,” one read.
“You’re a stain on this country and I hope you rot in hell,” said another.
The threats have become real enough that McKenna sometimes now requires a security detail, a level of protection even cabinet ministers don’t usually get.
“There are places, yes, that I have to have security now and I don’t think that’s a great situation,” she said. “I’m someone who is trying to do my job, live my life, and talk and engage with people, and it makes it harder. I’m not going to let this stop me but I wish it would stop.”
McKenna would not elaborate on the security needs, so as not to reveal when she has less protection. She said the online abuse in particular has been going on since she was elected, but that in recent months it has gotten much worse in person.
“The challenges, the increases of this, is worrying for everyone,” she said.
A worrying trend
McKenna is not alone in fearing for her safety. Tzeporah Berman, international program co-ordinator for Stand.Earth, said earlier this summer that she has received death threats and was physically assaulted in the Edmonton airport by a man angry about her campaign to close down the oil sands.
Catherine Abreu, the executive director of Climate Action Network, Canada, said the issue is a constant source of frustration and fear for environmentalists.
“We talk about it every single day,” said Abreu. “There are many people in my community who feel they are under threat.”
Abreu and Berman both point to politicians as stoking the fires. Abreu said U.S. President Donald Trump’s rhetorical attacks have emboldened people who now feel it is perfectly acceptable to insult, abuse and threaten people they disagree with.
Berman said the threats and attacks against her worsened after Alberta Premier Jason Kenney launched his “war room,” a $30-million project to discredit people he says are using foreign funding to undermine Canada’s energy sector. Berman and others are being named by the Alberta government and called enemies for opposing the oil industry.
“Since Kenney announced his $30 million warroom to attack environmental advocates & this poster of me was held up at his press conference I have had death threats, misogynist & sexual attacks on social media,” she tweeted in June. “This is what that kind of fear mongering & hate does.”
An attached image shows a sheet of paper with a photo of her speaking into a bullhorn in front of a banner reading “NO TARSANDS PIPELINE.” Below the photo are the words “Tzeporah Berman: Enemy of the oilsands.” Kenney didn’t hold it up but a supporter introducing him at a pro-oilsands news conference in June did.
A spokeswoman for Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage said “in no way does our government condone any form of abuse, verbal or otherwise, towards private citizens or elected officials.”
Samantha Peck said the “Fight Back Strategy” is in development but the war room itself has not yet been established and hasn’t issued any publications naming any specific individuals.
The United Conservative Party has named at least one individual in a fundraising pitch to supporters.
Emma Jackson, who works from Climate Justice Edmonton, shared the letter on Aug. 30, which named her as a “radical anti-oil and gas activist.”
Berman’s tweet was itself met with a torrent of abuse, many of which called her a liar or said she deserved everything she got. A handful of people said while they disagreed vehemently with Berman’s activities, the threats and abuse were not acceptable. They, too, were then attacked.
McKenna said she doesn’t call this sort of thing out often because she fears giving abusers attention. In 2017, she did stop to call foul when Conservative MP Gerry Ritz referred to her on Twitter as “Climate Barbie.”
The insult was coined by the right-wing website, The Rebel, shortly after McKenna was named environment minister and has been used in hundreds, if not thousands, of insults hurled her direction.
Ritz, a former agriculture minister who has since resigned from Parliament, deleted his tweet and apologized for the slur when it was met with outrage.
McKenna said the fact that climate-change deniers have now verbally attacked Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, proves just how low some will go to discredit their opponents.
People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier was among them, accusing Thunberg in a tweet of being mentally unstable. He later said he wasn’t trying to insult her, just show that she was a pawn being used by adults to put an unassailable face on their lies that climate change is a human-caused emergency.
Pedestrian killed by car in Surrey
One person has died after being struck by a car on Saturday night in the Newton neighbourhood of Surrey, B.C.
RCMP say a pedestrian was hit by a vehicle around 10:34 p.m, near the busy intersection of 152 Street and Highway 10.
Police say the pedestrian was pronounced dead on scene.
Evidence markers dotted Highway 10 for several dozen metres west of the intersection where a white car sat with front end damage.
The intersection was closed to traffic overnight while collision analysts examined the scene.
Police have not announced any details on what caused the crash.
Anyone who witnessed the collision, saw the vehicle beforehand, or has dash camera footage of the incident is asked to contact Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.
Mississauga mayor statement after shooting in the city
The mayor of Mississauga, Ont., says she’s “shocked and saddened” after a teenage boy was killed and five other people were wounded when gunfire erupted in the city west of Toronto on Saturday evening.
Bonnie Crombie called the incident a “senseless act of gun violence” and says her thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families.
Peel Regional Police Chief Chris McCord said at a news conference late Saturday night that according to witnesses, multiple suspects unleashed a barrage of gunfire from semi-automatic weapons near a parkette behind an apartment building at around 6:20 p.m.He said a 17-year-old old boy died at the scene and that five others – a 13-year-old, a 16-year-old, two 17-year-olds and a woman in her 50s – were injured.
McCord said one of the wounded was in serious condition and that the other four suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
No suspect information has been released as officers continued to canvass the area for surveillance footage and police are asking anyone with information on the shooting to come forward.
Crombie thanked first responders who rushed to the scene and she says she hopes to take action in response to the shooting.
“As a member of the police board, I am committed to ensuring Mississauga remains one of the safest cities by working to get illegal guns off our streets,” said Crombie in a statement.
McCord has said that “a lot” of shell casings were found scattered over a wide area and that several vehicles were hit by the gunfire.
He said it’s early in the investigation and that many questions about the incident remained unanswered, including the motive, whether the victims were targeted and whether the shooting was gang related.
A music video was being filmed near the scene of the shooting, but McCord said he didn’t know if it was in any way linked to the case.
Police seeking 7 suspects in shooting in Mississauga
A 17-year-old boy who was killed in a shooting in Mississauga on Saturday night was an innocent victim, Peel Regional Police say.
Peel Police Chief Chris McCord told reporters on Sunday that investigators believe there were seven shooters involved in gunfire that injured four other teens and a woman in her 50s in a parkette behind an apartment complex.
The shooting occurred on Darcel Avenue near Dunrankin Drive, in the area of Morning Star and Goreway Drive. Police were called to the scene at 6:22 p.m.
Officers have recovered more than 100 shell casings at the crime scene.
McCord said police also believe the shooting was motivated by a rap music video that was filmed in the parkette and released last week.
The teen boy, whose name has not been released, was pronounced dead at the scene. The five injured people — a 13-year-old girl, a 16-year-old boy, and two 17-year-old boys — were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Police say one of the injured people has been released from hospital and the remaining four are in stable condition
McCord said some of the injured are also believed to be innocent victims.
He said the shooting occurred as people in the parkette were setting up to shoot a music video and an ice cream truck was nearby.
No one is in custody, no suspects have been identified and officers are reviewing security camera video.
Police believe the shooters used semi-automatic weapons, but none of those weapons have been recovered.
Mayor says she is ‘deeply shocked’ by shooting
On Sunday morning, police canvassed the neighbourhood, knocking on doors in the hopes of finding witnesses and security camera video.
Officers also sent out a drone to obtain an aerial view of the crime scene and brought in a metal detector to scan for stray bullets in the grass.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said in a statement Sunday that her thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.
“I am deeply shocked and saddened to hear of this senseless act of gun violence in our city, it’s simply unacceptable. I urge anyone with information to contact police immediately,” Crombie said.
“As a member of the police board, I am committed to ensuring Mississauga remains one of the safest cities by working to get illegal guns off our streets.”
Crombie also thanked Peel police and paramedics who “swiftly” went to the scene.
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