Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Police called after Catherine McKenna’s office vandalized with vulgar slur

McKenna said during a news conference she wants to have ‘better discussions’ in politics

Newly re-elected Liberal MP Catherine McKenna says she has notified police after someone spray-painted a vulgar slur on the front of her Ottawa Centre campaign office.

Staff arriving at the office Thursday morning found the four-letter obscenity scrawled in red paint over a photo of the environment minister.

A visibly shaken McKenna held a news conference to respond to the incident, saying it sends the wrong message to the women and girls of all ages who worked on her campaign.

“It isn’t about me. It’s about what kind of politics we want in our country,” McKenna said after striding past the word “c—t” written in block letters across a large image of her face on the front window of her Ottawa campaign office.

“It’s the same as the trolls on Twitter. It needs to stop. We need to come together as a country and have real discussions about real issues, but doing it in a way without vitriol, without hate and without anger.”

McKenna has been the subject of online vitriol over her central role in the Liberal government’s push to address climate change, including its move to impose a carbon tax on provinces without a similar measure that affected those with conservative governments.

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During the election campaign, she spoke to The Canadian Press about how the anonymous online abuse has escalated into in-person verbal assaults. The threats had grown to a level where McKenna sometimes requires a security detail, a level of protection cabinet ministers don’t usually receive.

She says she wants to have “better discussions” in politics.

“I have two daughters. I have so many young women, and women on my campaign of all ages. They believe in politics and so do I,” said McKenna.

“It’s time for everyone to take a deep breath, myself included, and I think we need to think about how we do better.”

McKenna’s political opponents at Queen’s Park agreed, setting aside their, at times, bitter political differences over dealing with climate change.

On Twitter, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said of the attack: “Disgusting. There is no place in Canada for hate like this. While we may disagree on matters, we must always respect one another.”

Ford was frequently attacked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the election campaign, while the premier has also waged war against the federal carbon tax, often pitting him against McKenna, the environment minister.

Ford’s online comments didn’t go unnoticed: McKenna responded with a tweet of thanks, saying “we can disagree but let’s do it respectfully.”

Lisa MacLeod, who holds multiple portfolios in the Ford cabinet and represents an Ottawa provincial riding, said on Twitter she was offering McKenna “my full support in demanding these visceral attacks end.

“Politics should be about debating ideas. Vandalism, threats and personal insults are unacceptable in Canadian politics. My heart breaks on how she will have to explain this to her children.”

In another Twitter posting, one of McKenna’s Liberal colleagues called the act “absolutely appalling.”

“It takes a lot of courage to put your name on a ballot. Despite party stripes, no candidate should face this kind of hatred,” wrote Gagan Sikand, who won re-election in his Toronto-area riding on Monday.

McKenna captured nearly 49 per cent of the vote in Ottawa Centre, giving her a margin of victory of about 15,000 votes, based on preliminary results from Elections Canada.

McKenna also noted that women represented all of the main parties in her riding — “That is great. That is progress,” she said — but noted that others have faced hateful attacks in Ottawa, including Jews, Muslims, blacks and members of the LGBTQ community.

“We all stand together against this. It doesn’t matter who you are.”

McKenna said she was taking a break after a hard campaign to spend some quality time with her family. She said she thought the “overheated rhetoric” of the campaign had subsided, but she was wrong.

She said she hopes the person who spray-painted her face is caught.

“Maybe they’ll find out who did it. I think people have to be held responsible for their actions,” she said.

“Speaking to the person who did this or the people who spread hate and vitriol online: maybe the first thing that person should do is think about whether you use that kind of language for your mother, your sister, your girlfriend, your daughter.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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