Last night, Pierre Poilievre -- the man who allied himself with the Truckers Convoy -- was elected leader of the Conservative Party by a landslide. Poilievre's ascension means that the threat of political violence in this country has become very real. Robin Sears writes:
Every democracy that has fought back successfully against political violence has discovered the same three core principles: education, accountability and severe penalties. Few students today learn in school about the thread that connects social media threats and political murder. Having finally adopted diversity education with some seriousness, schools need now to begin conversations on acceptable and unacceptable political debate, the risk to democracy that political violence always poses, and how to recognize dangerous language and behaviour.
Politicians need to stop pointing fingers at each other and agree on the common standards, regulations and laws required to prevent citizens and officials from having to fear for their lives. A clear declaration from Pierre Poilievre about his views on deadly threats and violence would be refreshing.
The penalties for verbal threats need to be made more severe. Social media platforms must be required to open and clean up their algorithms that help spread hateful speech around the world. Employers, schools, public agencies and others need to declare “tough consequences” policies for threatening speech.
The future looks dark:
We should expect more mass attacks on our major cities by armed protesters. Given the rising number of death threats received by high-profile politicians, it seems almost inevitable that one of them will be acted on. Verbal confrontations like the one Freeland was subjected to can easily slide into physical attacks.
So, yes, we need to beef up our protection systems, from physical and electronic fencing to greater surveillance and prosecutions of known violence mongers. But as we saw only weeks ago when Salman Rushdie was almost murdered on stage, even if he still had heavily armed guardians they could not prevent violent attacks by those willing to die in their assault.
We need to develop a broad consensus on the boundaries of acceptable discourse and behaviour in this country — and then enforce those rules at the first signs of trouble.
So let's start thinking about the rules of the game. It's a sure bet that Mr. Poilievre won't like them.
Image: The Hill Times