OTTAWA - Criminal charges would be one way to deter people from shouting obscenities at reporters during live broadcasts, but exposing their actions is also important, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said Wednesday.
Federal politicians from all parties rallied around a CityNews reporter Wednesday for confronting hecklers at a Toronto FC game on the weekend, the camera rolling, after she was subjected to a sexually explicit taunt.
"It doesn't matter whether it is at a ballpark, a soccer field, a playground, the House of Commons or a scrum, it's not acceptable to behave that way, it should be frowned upon," MacKay said.
"I think by exposing it this way, it sends a lesson to everyone."
In the video, reporter Shauna Hunt is seen conducting an interview when an unidentified passerby interrupts by shouting a profanity-laced phrase encouraging crude sex with women.
MacKay said given the language was offensive and derogatory, there would be room for criminal charges, though he stressed it is not up to the justice minister to direct police to file such charges.
A spokeswoman for Toronto police has said the force was consulting with the Crown, but couldn't start investigating the incident without a complainant.
After the interruption, Hunt — the camera still rolling — confronted a group of men loitering nearby and asked if they were waiting to do the same thing. The exchange was widely circulated online.
It was a brave move on her part, said NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.
"Bravo to the journalist for standing her ground and taking on these bullies and the words they were using," he said.
Though live broadcasts are often interrupted by passers-by, the specific sexual taunt Hunt encountered is the result of a series of videos — later debunked as hoaxes — that were posted online in 2014 capturing men surprising female reporters during their reports with sexually explicit statements aimed directly at them.
By Tuesday, some of the men caught on Hunt's camera had been identified and at least one had lost his job — a consequence Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau thought was appropriate.
"We've all seen even here on the Hill that cultures need to adjust and change," he said.
"It's time people woke up and realized that we need to make sure we are protecting everyone in this country and putting a stop to bullying, harassment and disrespect of that nature."
Earlier this year, Trudeau kicked two Liberal MPs out of his caucus after they became the subject of sexual harassment allegations. Both MPs maintain they did nothing wrong. No charges were ever filed.
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