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Northern Ont. MP raises awareness about online threats

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Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus is sounding an alarm bell on the increase of threatening violence towards politicians.

Over the weekend, a social media user told Angus to shut his mouth and to be careful. The threat also included an image of a man pointing a gun at him.

Angus said he’ll continue to call out people who attempt to dismantle Canada’s democracy.

The threatening response came after Angus made a social media post in support of a physician who helps people struggling with substance use disorder.

But someone didn’t like what Angus had to say and posted a threatening reply.

“I received a message that had an image of someone pointing a gun at me and told me to keep my mouth shut on this,” he said.

“So I thought, people need to see this. This is what's happening now in Canadian politics, this attempt to intimidate, silence people. But what really worried me is that it's all based on targeting and harassing a medical doctor.”

Angus said politicians at all levels of government have been dealing with a rising threat of violence, especially on social media.

“We're creating a platform where toxicity and menace has become the norm and what it does is it's undermining our public institutions,” he said.

A liberal MP from southern Ontario announced this year that she is not going to run in the next election because of the level of toxicity she’s endured.

Pam Damoff said it extends beyond social media platforms — she also gets misogynistic emails, phone calls and is harassed in person.

'Very difficult for women'

“It makes it very difficult for women in politics because we are subject to it more than others,” Damoff said.

“And I know I did an interview in Quebec. I think they said there have been over 100 women who have stepped away at different levels of government and we've seen it here in Ontario as well. I know a couple down in Wilmot who ended up moving out of town because the woman had been on municipal council and just the level of abuse that she was getting caused them to have to leave the city.”

Damoff and Angus said they report the threats, but little is done about them.

“I do find it frustrating when I've called the police and they've said it doesn't rise to the level of actually a threat in the law,” she said.

“I mean, we've sent voicemails, we've sent emails that we've received. And I do find that disturbing. I sort of go, well, what is the level that needs to be reached before the police do take action?”

Damoff and more than 20 other female elected representatives in the Halton Region have pledged to call out abuse and harassment when they see it or experience it.

Angus said he will do the same, because democracy and our civic life are threatened. 

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