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Security threats: Canadian Ministers, MPs to get “panic buttons”

“I have been the subject of death threats on social media,” says Marco Mendicino, Canada’s Public Safety Minister

Toronto: If six incidents of shooting at different public places in Toronto last Sunday are any indication, the gun mafia has not taken well to the recent measures the Canadian government has taken to reinforce gun controls.

Canadian MPs will now be getting “panic buttons” that they can press in an emergency for immediate response and protection. It is one of several steps taken by the Canadian Parliament to protect its members.

Various MPs, including serving Ministers, are feeling threatened. They have been expressing their deep concerns over increasing threats to them on social media channels.

The Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino in a recent interview revealed that he has been the subject of death threats on social media.

Security concerns have gone alarming, says Public Safety Minister, after he presented a bill curbing gun ownership in the House of Commons.

He also quoted the case of the NDP leader Jagmeet Singh who underwent verbal harassment during the Ontario election campaign last month

A video  that went viral  shows that as Singh left a campaign office, he encountered protesters who could be heard shouting expletives at him and calling him a “traitor.”

Singh has said the experience in Peterborough, Ontario,  was one of the worst incidents of aggressive behaviour he’s experienced in his political career.

The video also shows protesters shouting at  Jagmeet Singh and following him to a vehicle after a campaign event in Peterborough,(Freedom Through Unity – Peterborough/Kawartha/Facebook).

While providing security cover to politicians and public servants has become a subject of animated discussions the world over, governments have been imitating actions to boost their protection.

“Panic buttons” or “mobile duress alarms” that are being provided to MPs are among the immediate measures taken by the Canadian government to boost protection for MPs. These small devices can be carried by MPs all the time. On pressing these buttons, they will be alerting the Parliamentary Protective Service or local police for an immediate rapid response. This has been necessitated in response to threats and rising concerns about harassment of Parliamentarians.

In an interview, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino revealed he has been the subject of death threats on social media in recent weeks after presenting a bill curbing gun ownership.

Mendicino said he, police and the Parliamentary Protective Service are reassessing the security of MPs after a series of threats and intimidating incidents.

In a presentation to Liberal MPs about new security measures, the sergeant-at-arms strongly recommended that they keep their panic buttons with them “at all times.”

The device can be used across Canada, including in MPs’ home constituencies, the presentation said.

The sergeant-at-arms, who is in charge of House of Commons security, is offering training to MPs and staff on how to de-escalate potentially violent situations.

Parliament has also started offering MPs security assessments of their constituency offices and homes and says it can install alarms, panic buttons, cameras and other security measures as necessary.

Mendicino said it’s part of his mandate to “ensure that all parliamentarians have the security that they need.”

He said he has been  working closely with law enforcement, the sergeant-at-arms, the Parliamentary Protective Service and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc to “constantly” reassess “the risk to parliamentarians.”

The security assessment follows a number of threats to MPs and incidents in the past year. At a campaign event during the last election, a handful of gravel was thrown at Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau outside a political rally.

Mendicino said he received a number of death threats on Instagram after introducing a bill in Parliament last month bringing in gun controls to prevent gun violence.

The posts from an account entitled “elite terrorist” include: “Somebody’s gonna shoot you to death,” and another death threat containing a derogatory term for a person of Italian descent.

“Threats, including death threats, have no place in this debate,” Mendicino said. “It is really important that we are able to have vigorous debates about this but to make sure that these debates are had in a way that is civil and free from any of the kind of threats, intimidation and downright criminal behaviour that we are seeing increasingly online.”

He said people who threaten and intimidate must  be held to account to avoid a chilling effect on free speech, which would be “a threat to our democracy.”

“We will obviously continue to flag those criminal posts to the platforms,” he said, adding that the authors of these posts should suffer serious consequences, such as being expelled from platforms.

The growing gun culture and rapid increase in incidents of mass shootings in the neighbouring USA have generated a strong demand for strict gun controls all over.

Prabhjot Singh

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