06/22/2016 12:14 EDT | Updated 06/22/2016 12:59 EDT

Threats Against Female Politicians Need To Be Investigated, Labour Group Tells RCMP

The AFL says extremists in the province are directing hate speech at female politicians.

Codie McLachlan/Canadian Press

EDMONTON — The Alberta Federation of Labour says the RCMP should actively pursue investigations into the "ugly and dangerous rhetoric'' that is being directed at women in politics.

In an official statement, the AFL says extremists in the province are directing hate speech at female politicians.

The federation, which represents 29 public and private sector unions, also says political leaders in the province should stand up to the violent fringe elements in their own parties.

Last week, participants in a golf tournament held by the Big Country Oilmen's Association were criticized by some for having a cutout of Premier Rachel Notley set up as a target so golfers could pelt her face with balls.

The incident came just days after British Labour Party MP Jo Cox was slain in a knife and gun attack that her husband says was motivated by her strong political beliefs, including her support for Syrian refugees and her work to keep Britain in the European Union.

Death threats

Notley has been the subject of death threats and earlier this year a man was charged after allegedly calling the officer of Environment Minister Shannon Phillips and threatening to shoot people over the carbon tax.

"When toxic rhetoric and behaviour ... becomes normalized, it allows extremists to dehumanize women who don't agree with them on political matters, helps them justify their deranged actions,'' the federation said in its statement. "In short, violent speech begets violent acts.''

The federation said many are willing to tolerate or offer excuses on behalf of those who exhibit misogynistic behaviour.

"But these are not jokes, they fuel hate, and hatred often leads to violence,'' said the statement.

"Unless leaders on the political right take this seriously, work to elevate the discourse, and to combat the extremists in their own ranks, they will be morally responsible for the actions of their supporters.''

"In short, violent speech begets violent acts.''

Alberta politicians aren't the only ones dealing with the issue.

On Tuesday, Manitoba NDP politician Nahanni Fontaine spoke out, saying she is fed up with all the threats she and other women in politics are receiving.

She said she recently received a call telling her to "watch out'' what she says in the legislature, adding that's not something people in public office should have to deal with.

"My mind literally can't wrap around how disrespectful and mean people can be to other people,'' said Fontaine. "It seems to be this free-for-all that individuals think that they can level all kinds of abuses against elected officials. I just don't know where that comes from.''

She acknowledged that men can receive threats, too, but said the intimidation of women in politics is more common and dangerous, adding such threats could end up scaring women off from pursuing political careers.

"I'm not going to take that,'' she said. "I will not just sit back and let you verbally attack me, physically attack me. I'm here to do a job.''

(The Canadian Press, CJOB)

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