Extra security for climate minister after threats

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Environment Minister Catherine McKenna speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 18, 2019Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Catherine McKenna says the “vocal sexism” directed towards her is unacceptable

Canada’s environment minister says she has been assigned a security detail because of abuse she has received both online and in person.

Catherine McKenna said in one recent incident a man in a car pulled up alongside her and her children, swore and called her a “climate Barbie”.

In Canada, government ministers rarely need high levels of protection.

The move comes as environmental campaigners, particularly women, report increasing levels of abuse.

Climate change has become a major issue in Canada’s federal election in October, with the two main parties taking opposing views on the subject.

Ms McKenna said she would now have extra protection at certain times, but did not give details.

“There are places, yes, that I have to have security now and I don’t think that’s a great situation,” she said, quoted by Canadian Press news agency.

“I’m someone who is trying to do my job, live my life, and talk and engage with people, and it makes it harder. I’m not going to let this stop me but I wish it would stop.”

Online abuse has been going on since she was elected, she added, but in recent months public confrontations have become worse.

She said she had received messages that included sexualised insults and threats against her family. In person she has been called an enemy, a traitor and a “communist piece of garbage”.

“The vocal sexism and hateful comments that are directed to people who work on climate change is unacceptable,” she told AFP news agency.

Two years ago Canadian Conservative MP Gerry Ritz apologised to Ms McKenna after calling her “climate Barbie”.

As the climate change debate rages, many activists have found themselves the targets of threats and abuse.

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who inspired a global movement, recently completed a voyage across the Atlantic on board an environmentally friendly yacht – but faced a barrage of attacks along the way.

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Media captionEnvironmental activist Greta Thunberg says climate change is ‘an existential crisis’

“Freak yachting accidents do happen in August,” Arron Banks, a UK businessman and prominent Brexit campaigner, tweeted. He later dismissed his comments as a joke.

Canadian environmental activist Tzeporah Berman recently revealed that she had received anti-Semitic abuse, death threats, and threats of sexual violence over her stance on Canada’s controversial oil sands industry.

The government of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has imposed carbon taxes on four of Canada’s 10 provinces for failing to introduce their own plans for tackling climate change.

In October’s election, in which Mr Trudeau will seek a second term, his Conservative rival Andrew Scheer has vowed to roll back the tax as his first act in office if elected.

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