Amidst an increase in incidents of harassment and intimidation, and threats of violence, parliamentarians in Canada are being given panic buttons, so that they can summon security or police in the event of an emergency.
The announcement was made by Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino recently. Notably, Mendicino himself received death threats on Instagram lately in response to a bill proposing to restrict handgun ownership. “The situation is very concerning,” he said, regarding “very negative and toxic rhetoric that we see online, which can then lead to violence”.
The Public Safety Minister added: “We need to have a space where we can have vigorous debates without seeing the level of vitriol and near physical confrontation and out and out incitement to violence and death threats.” Mendicino described panic buttons – otherwise known as “mobile duress alarms” – as another layer of security for MPs and their staff.
The devices can be used throughout Canada to alert Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS) or local police.
Moreover, Parliament’s sergeant-at-arms offered training to lawmakers and their staff about how to de-escalate situations that threaten to turn violent. In the meantime, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters “We know unfortunately that there’s a significant amount of anger and frustration out there directed at the government, directed at officials.” “We need to make sure that anyone who steps up to serve their community at any level of politics is safe,” he added.
Although surrounded by security, rocks were thrown at Prime Minister Trudeau at an election rally in September 2021. Trudeau said that protests at various campaign stops were “practically foaming at the mouth, they were so mad at me”, and yelled racial and misogynist slurs. Last month, New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh faced an angry mob outside an event. The mob shouted expletives at him, called him a “traitor,” and wished he was dead.
The next day, he addressed a news conference in which he described the incident as “among the worst experiences” he’d ever had. Singh also said that the incident reflected the growing division in politics.