Threatening behaviour towards elected officials is on the increase throughout B.C., with North Island MLA Michele Babchuk the latest in a series of protests directed towards politicians.
Babchuk told the Mirror about three instances where protests at her office and home have “crossed the line.” Though she does expect some degree of passion from people in the riding as part of the job, when those instances begin threatening people’s safety is when it goes too far.
Starting on Dec. 1, a group of people who were protesting outside of Babchuk’s office about public health orders came inside, which Babchuk says was “unsafe for staff and I had another constituent in my office.”
“I was meeting with that group, three representatives from that group in my office,” she said. “During that meeting, it became very clear that I didn’t agree with what they were saying and I wasn’t going to agree to advocate for them. One of the gentlemen got up and decided to go to the door and let everybody into the foyer of the office.”
Then on Dec. 11 protesters came to Babchuk’s home, where they “approached the front of my house on my sidewalk, blocked my driveway and proceeded to scream and yell and try to make their voices heard.
“It did cross a line for me,” Babchuk said. “It took it from a professional conversation — even if we weren’t agreeing — to a personal attack.”
Babchuk also said a third incident occurred at her home. The RCMP were called to each of the three incidents, and there was at least one arrest.
The protests and demonstrations have gone beyond partisanship. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau had to move offices earlier this month, Liberal MLA Mike Bernier has received death threats, Black Press reported an incident at Liberal MLA Trevor Halford’s office where a man was hitting the building with a five-foot-long plastic pipe, and on Dec. 11 mannequins made to look like B.C. Premier John Horgan and other ministers were hanged in front of the Legislature.
“This is just something that is escalating for all elected officials. I even know that the MP in our area has had attacks on her office and locally-elected officials are seeing it as well,” Babchuk said. “It’s a trend that I think is dangerous and I’m concerned about it. It has to stop.”
Babchuk said she understands that people are frustrated after having to deal with COVID-19 for the better part of two years, but stressed the need to return to civility.
“I certainly respect the fact that they have a different opinion,” she said. “I’ve heard them, I’ve listened. I disagree and I do not believe what they believe hence I can’t advocate for them. I believe that some of the things that they believe in puts the public in danger.”
Dealing with protests and higher tensions are part of the job for Babchuk, but her family and neighbours did not put their names on the ballot.
“I think you expect people to disagree with you and you’d expect people to be passionate about their issues and rise up a little bit,” she said. “I think it was very startling to my family to see it happen outside of my home. I know it was something I didn’t expect. As we move forward, I’m hoping that cooler heads will prevail and we’re able to have these discussions in a more civilized manner.”
The Mirror has reached out to the RCMP for comment.