OHS Canada Magazine

More than 400 threats aimed at Alberta Premier last year

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February 21, 2017
By Jeff Cottrill

Health & Safety alberta harassment Health and Wellness occupational health and safety rachel notley threats unifor

Sheriffs recorded 412 cases of “inappropriate contact and communication”

(Canadian OH&S News) — New statistics from Alberta Justice have revealed that Premier Rachel Notley was subject to 412 incidents of “inappropriate contact and communication” (ICC) in 2016.

Out of these ICC incidents, 26 were forwarded to the police for review and possible investigation, according to the stats, which were released to the media on Feb. 13. The provincial government also revealed that Alberta’s Sheriffs Branch had recorded a total of 19 threats against Notley over the last five months of 2015 — more than against any other Premier since 2003. There had also been 16 recorded threats against Alison Redford during her stint as Premier from 2012 to 2014, according to the Branch.

In an e-mailed response to COHSN, Jason van Rassel, a public-affairs officer with Alberta Justice, said that there was “no set definition” for ICC and that it would be “inappropriate” to give a specific example.

“As potential threats come to the attention of the Sheriffs Branch, they’re analyzed and assessed on a case-by-case basis and investigators rely on their expertise and judgement to classify them accordingly,” said van Rassel. “If something approaches or reaches the threshold for uttering threats set out in the Criminal Code, the file is forwarded to police for review and possible investigation.”

The Sheriffs Branch began keeping closer track of ICC against Notley early in 2016, van Rassel added, noting that it had gathered the information from numerous sources.


Jerry Dias, president of national private-sector union Unifor and an advocate for eliminating violence against women, called the Alberta Justice revelations “unbelievable.

“They think they’re going to intimidate her,” said Dias. “It’s really about bullying. They think that somehow, if they bully her, that somehow, she’ll leave.”

He added that this problem seems to affect women in politics exclusively. “Men in politics don’t go through this,” he said, citing B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne as examples of female leaders who endure frequent threats and harassment. “Speak to these women, and the stories they will tell you, about bullying, about sexual harassment, are over the top.”

Dias said that the issue of harassment and threats against female politicians had always been around. “And what’s disturbing is, in 2017, it doesn’t seem to be getting any better,” he said.

“The difference is that people are talking about it today. People like Christy Clark, who are high-profile, are coming out and talking about what she’s had to endure as a female politician.”

The stats from Alberta Justice are not the only recent example of women in politics dealing with threats and harassment in the province. In November, Sandra Jansen withdrew from the Alberta Conservative leadership race and joined the NDP party, saying that she had faced excessive, misogynistic harassment from the public.

Van Rassel did not specify the nature of any of the threats against Notley, noting that they depended on variables.

“The same online comment may be viewed differently depending on the context,” he said. “Was it is posted once, or is it part of an ongoing pattern? However, frequency would be only one of many things investigators would be looking at.”

While it is important for women to speak out openly about the sexism and harassment they face, men also have a responsibility for doing something about it, suggested Dias.

“Men are the ones that are causing the problem,” he said. “So we need to be the ones that find a solution. So we have to be advocates. Men have to be very active. We need to talk about it.

“People need to know that this is a problem,” said Dias, “and women need to know there are a lot of men out there that are strong advocates for them.”


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