OTTAWA—Threats against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal cabinet ministers are on the rise, according to new RCMP data obtained by the Star.
The RCMP’s protective policing division logged 130 threats made against Trudeau or members of his cabinet between January and July, up from 100 recorded during the same period in 2019.
If the pace holds, 2020 could see considerably more threats directed at senior federal politicians than the previous election year’s total of 215.
Daniel Brien, a spokesperson with the national police force, said the RCMP would not discuss the specific nature of those threats or discuss any investigations into them.
But the last two months have presented two examples.
The Ottawa Police Service launched an investigation last week into an incident outside Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna’s constituency office. A 90-second video that made the rounds on social media showed an unidentified man hurling insults and expletives at a McKenna staffer about the minister and Trudeau.
In a statement, McKenna called the incident “unacceptable” — but not isolated.
“My family, staff and I deal with abusive behaviour on a regular basis,” McKenna wrote, noting that social media platforms have some responsibility for the vitriol directed at public figures.
“These people just want attention. The only attention they should get is from law enforcement.”
In July, an armed Canadian Forces reservist was arrested near Rideau Hall with multiple firearms after a black Dodge Ram crashed through a pedestrian gate on the viceregal grounds, where Trudeau and his family live.
The RCMP are now investigating potential national security angles in the incident. Corey Hurren, the 46-year old Manitoban charged in the incident, had a long history of being drawn to conspiracy websites. He also had four guns — two shotguns, a semi-automatic rifle, and a revolver — with him at the time.
CBC News reported last week Hurren had 405 rounds of .308-calibre ammunition for the rifle, an undisclosed number of shotgun shells, plus the rounds loaded into the weapons when he was arrested.
MPs of all political stripes have noted an increase in the online hatred directed at them in recent years — especially female politicians or people of colour in public life. Much of that harassment occurs online and especially on social media, where extremists and conspiracy theorists peddle their world views.
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The RCMP’s Protective Policing service is responsible for the security of Trudeau, Governor General Julie Payette, cabinet ministers and Supreme Court and Federal Court judges. But in practice, only Trudeau and Payette have a permanent, 24-7 security detail.
And while the national police force is responsible for cabinet ministers’ safety, a recent report from VICE cited sources complaining that the RCMP’s threat assessment process — which determines if ministers need security details — is opaque and insufficient.