MPs are being provided with panic buttons to increase their personal security in response to growing threats and concerns about harassment of MPs.
In an interview, Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino revealed he had received death threats on social media in recent weeks after introducing a bill restricting gun ownership. .
Mendicino said he, police and the Parliamentary Protective Service were reassessing the safety of MPs after a series of threats and intimidating incidents.
This includes the verbal harassment of NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh during an election visit to Ontario last month.
A video shows that as Singh was leaving a campaign office, he encountered protesters who could be heard shouting profanities at him and calling him a “traitor”.
Singh said the experience in Peterborough, Ont., was one of the worst incidents of aggressive behavior he had experienced in his political career.
Among the measures deployed to increase the protection of MPs are panic buttons or “mobile duress alarms”. MPs can carry them with them to immediately alert the Parliamentary Protective Service or local police for rapid response.
During a presentation to Liberal MPs on the new security measures, the Sergeant-at-Arms urged them to keep their panic buttons on them “at all times”.
The device can be used anywhere in Canada, including in MPs’ ridings, according to the presentation.
The Sergeant-at-Arms, who is responsible for security in the House of Commons, provides training to MPs and staff on how to de-escalate potentially violent situations.
Growing number of threats
Parliament also offers MPs security assessments of their constituency offices and homes and says it can install alarms, panic buttons, cameras and other security measures if needed.
Mendicino said it was part of his mandate to “ensure that all parliamentarians have the security they need”.
He said he was working closely with law enforcement, the Sergeant-at-Arms, the Parliamentary Protective Service and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc to “constantly” reassess “the risk to parliamentarians”.
The security assessment follows a number of threats against MPs and incidents over the past year. During a campaign event during the last election, a handful of gravel was thrown at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau outside a political rally.
Mendicino said he received a number of death threats on Instagram after he introduced a bill in parliament last month providing for gun control to prevent gun violence.
Posts from an account labeled “terrorist elite” include: “Someone is going to shoot you” and another death threat containing a derogatory term for a person of Italian descent.
“Threats, including death threats, have no place in this debate,” Mendicino said. “It is really important that we can have vigorous debates about this, but to make sure that these debates are conducted in a civil way and free from any kind of threats, intimidation and outright criminal behavior that we are seeing more and more more online.”
He said those who threaten and intimidate must be held accountable to avoid a chilling effect on free speech which would be “a threat to our democracy”.
“We will obviously continue to report these criminal messages to the platforms,” he said, adding that the authors of these messages should face serious consequences, such as being removed from the platforms.
Instagram was not immediately available for comment.