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Local MPs targeted as political discontent linked to vaccination mandate grows

  • February 16 2022
  • By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    

GUYSBOROUGH – More than weeks into the truckers’ protest against the vaccine mandate that’s disrupted life in downtown Ottawa and blocked border crossings, Nova Scotia MPs were subjected to comparisons to Nazi Germany and received packages which required police intervention.

Mike Kelloway, Rick Perkins and Chris d’Entremont received suspicious envelopes in the mail on Feb. 10.

An envelope was sent to Cape Breton-Canso MP Kelloway’s constituency office in Dominion, where it was quickly identified by staff as suspicious, based on descriptions provided by other MP offices in the province that had received similar packages containing disturbing pictures and unknown irritants.

“Based on those pieces of information – no return address, no stamp, writing style,” Kelloway told The Journal on Feb. 15, staff was quickly able to identify the envelope as suspicious and called 911.

The envelope was dispatched to the RCMP, who are, “doing their due diligence in terms of whatever tests they do for suspicious envelopes. We haven’t heard anything yet from them so now it is a waiting game to see – was there anything in it, was it empty, did it have any type of pictures – because one MP did have some disturbing pictures, from what I am told – and also one MP had an irritant in the envelope,” said Kelloway.

He added he wasn’t overly surprised he received a suspicious envelope, as other MPs in the province had reported receiving such items, but his first reaction was concern for the safety of his staff.

Another reaction, Kelloway told The Journal, was a sense of duty to fulfill his job to serve the people.

“Any parliamentarian, any party, and their staff, take this job immensely seriously. We’re here to serve the people of the area. And, when someone sends an envelope, whether there is anything in that envelope, that’s a conversation for another day, the intent of an envelope like that, quite frankly, is to terrorize and to [cause] fear, and stop me from working.

“These types of activities are not going to work. We will not stop working for the people of the area. There is an element of bullying and terrorizing and being obstructionist and I will say that we will not capitulate to anyone. We will keep working.”

Kelloway also said he felt disappointed that someone, or a group of people, would feel compelled to take this action, “to make this a political statement. Well, it’s not a political statement. It’s a form of terror, and we live in a day and age where we have to take everything seriously.”

Protest

On the same day (Feb. 10), Central Nova MP Sean Fraser’s constituency office in New Glasgow was the site of a protest ostensibly advertised as being against vaccine mandates.

Fraser and his staff had been made aware of the protest through social media posts. Due to the content of the posts advertising the protest comparing those adhering to and implementing the vaccine mandate to Nazis, Fraser instructed staff to lock the doors to the office and work from home on that afternoon.

Fraser spoke to The Journal on the following evening (Feb. 11) about the incident.

Freedom of expression vs hate

“I am a huge supporter of the freedom of expression, freedom of association, and there is a lot of room in our civil discourse for disagreement on things as important as public health measures to end this pandemic,” said Fraser, adding, “What troubled me with this particular protest and many of the protests we’re seeing across Canada and in Ottawa, is the way it was being promoted – tying the public health measures that are in place to the kind of conduct that Nazi Germany committed against Jewish people during the Holocaust. The idea that there would be criticism against an elected official for implementing the measures that we campaigned on, to have that kind of analogy made, is a very dangerous thing and it is a disservice not only to the elected official, or the constituency staff that might be there that day, but also to the people who voted in a free and fair election to have certain ideas implemented.

“This kind of thing is not new to our communities. I’ve been seeing it more and more over the last few years and to know it’s in the context of some of the behaviour that we’ve witnessed in Ottawa with swastikas and confederate flags, and the desecration of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; the context around this made it particularly worrying,” said Fraser.

When people disagree with government, they have the option to voice that disagreement, to write to elected officials, to vote, “But there is no place in our democratic discourse for violence. There is no place in our democratic discourse for comparison to Nazi Germany and it is a real disservice to anyone who participates in our democracy by showing up at the ballot box in order to have a say about which direction our country ought to move in,” said Fraser.

“I can assure these folks, if they were to behave the way that they’ve conducted themselves in a true dictatorship, they wouldn’t be met with an elected official who criticizes their behavior on social media. The consequences would be far more severe,” added Fraser.

Political discourse

Fraser went on to say that he worries about the climate of political conversations in Canada, which have devolved into an “echo chamber where you think that everyone agrees with you. You don’t seek to understand where other people are coming from but assume that, when someone doesn’t agree with you, they are somehow deficient or less than you are. And it is a very unhealthy place to be.”

Referring to his childhood near Antigonish, Fraser said it wasn’t unusual for friends and family members to have intense political discussion and then move on to tea, talk about the weather, the Leafs and the Habs. “There weren’t hard feelings, just good, fun debate and that’s the way it ought to be.”

Fraser said, “I hope we can return to that kind of atmosphere, and I think, as an elected official, I’m going to continue to reflect on how I can foster that kind of healthy debate in our democracy, where we can treat those we disagree with as our friends and neighbours and not our enemies.”