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Freeland says Albertans kind, welcoming, as RCMP investigate confrontation

Deputy PM subjected to a profane tirade while in Grande Prairie, Friday
Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minster Chrystia Freeland speaks in Calgary, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, flanked by Steven Laskowski (left), president of Canadian Trucking Alliance and Trevor Fridfinnson (right), chief operating officer at Bison Transport. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Graveland

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says she loves her home province of Alberta and the world needs to know it’s a welcoming place.

Her comment Wednesday in Calgary comes after she was subjected to a profane tirade while in Grande Prairie, Alta., on Friday.

A video posted on Twitter by an account that voices opposition to COVID-19 public health measures shows Freeland entering an elevator while a man approaches her, hurling profanities and calling her a traitor.

The man in the video looms in front of the open elevator doors and tells Freeland to get out of Alberta, while a woman tells her, “You don’t belong here.”

Freeland, after touring a transportation facility, said it’s important people know what happened was wrong.

She called it an “unpleasant incident” but one that “does not, in any way, overshadow the warmth of the welcome that I have received.”

She said Alberta is a warm, kind and diverse province.

“That is the Alberta I grew up in … that is the Alberta I have been visiting for the past week.”

Freeland received support from one of her hosts at the news conference, Trevor Fridfinnson, chief operating officer at Bison Transport.

“Concerning trends over a lack of civility from and to those in public life needs to be kept in check and the best way to do that is to persist in the face of that kind of activity that only comes from a misguided minority,” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in again on the confrontation, saying the debate over whether there needs to be more security for elected officials has been going on for years.

“As a Canadian leader, politician or a simple citizen, we are quite proud of the fact we don’t need the level of security that is required in the United States or elsewhere in the world,” Trudeau said in Ottawa following a cabinet shuffle.

“We do realize that political debate is becoming more and more bitter in this country, more aggressive. Citizens, as we see unfortunately, some of them feel free to proffer threats, particularly against women, women in power.”

Mounties said they are investigating the confrontation in Grande Prairie.

Under RCMP regulations, MPs can receive officer protection in Canada and abroad as needed. Freeland said she follows RCMP advice about her security.

She said she realizes she is not alone in being harassed.

“People who are members of a visible minority and women are perhaps particularly vulnerable,” she said.

“I am conscious that there are a lot of journalists and politicians across the country who have a lot less support than I do, who can face challenging situations, and it’s important for all of us to support them.”

Member of Parliament Filomena Tassi, minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, said it’s not reasonable for her to have round-the-clock security and she has changed her behaviour.

She said politicians need to stop with insults and low blows, and all Canadians need to talk on the issue.

“If Canadians don’t enter into this dialogue, it’s going to get worse and it’s going to escalate,” she said.

“The gravest thing here … we will not have people stepping up to enter political life, to serve as journalists, because they’re afraid for themselves and maybe even graver they’re concerned for the safety of their family.”

—Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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