Threats against elected officials | A collective responsibility

In the healthy and urgent discussion of the recent violence against Canadian politicians, it is crucial to choose the right words and to make the correct diagnosis. Whatever political color we are, we have a duty to be clear about what is acceptable and what is not in a democratic society. It is necessary, in particular, to make the difference between “stirring up” popular anger and “channeling” it.

Posted at 11:00 a.m.

Senior Fellow at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs of the University of Ottawa

In Quebec, Liberal MP Marwah Rizky criticized Conservative leader Éric Duhaime for the following statement: “Our objective was precisely to take all this grumbling that was outside parliament, then bring it into the walls of parliament. Mr. Duhaime is a champion of ambiguity. This statement is no exception.

Some will understand that the Conservative leader is calling for a Quebec “January 6”, where an angry population would invade the National Assembly to forcefully impose a change of regime. Others will see it as a perfectly correct, even desirable political strategy: to ensure that the anger of the mob is expressed within democratic institutions rather than polluting social media and ruining the lives of candidates. Where is the “real” Éric Duhaime?

It is important for the rest of the debate to affirm that all ideas, even the most far-fetched, must have the right of citizenship, provided that they do not call for violence or contempt for democracy and the rule of law .

Donald Trump has every right to say all the bullshit imaginable; American voters will judge. Where the former president crosses the line is when he refutes the election results and rejects the law when they do not suit him.

Even conspiracy theorists should be able to express their ideas, as long as they fit within democratic norms. As soon as these ideas call for violence or hatred of others, as soon as they incite contempt for democratic and legal institutions, they cross the line that separates democracy from dictatorship and anarchy.

Don’t ignore frustration

There is real frustration within a section of the population. The experience of Europe and the United States shows that the political class would be wrong to ignore it hoping that this anger will eventually dry up. Of course, politicians should avoid fanning it (Little Robert : “to make more lively”). But they should certainly seek to channel it (“steer in a particular direction”) within our democratic institutions.

If they don’t, discontent will grow, resulting in threats against candidates, convoys of truckers, and perhaps one day a Quebec “Donald Trump”.

That one or more political parties take an interest in this popular anger and seek to harness it within the democratic framework is therefore an excellent thing. However, they bear the responsibility to reject and clearly denounce any verbal or physical violence and any calls for violations of law or democracy.

As was clearly demonstrated on Friday in The Press the columnist Patrick Lagacé, the conservative leader Éric Duhaime did not discharge this responsibility, by not denouncing immediately and without ambiguity the acts of violence committed against the deputies Enrico Ciccone and Marwah Rizky. He also played a dangerous game by claiming to be the representative of the “people” (with only 15% of the voting intentions…) against the other politicians who would need protection because they would work against the interests of this “ people “.

Mr. Duhaime is a very intelligent man. He knows very well what he is doing, and that is why these two-way talk is dangerous. Finally, on Friday, he expressed himself more clearly on this subject, inviting his supporters to express their anger “in a democratic way” by going to vote on October 3. “Our duty, as a leader, is to calm the world,” added the Conservative leader. His duty now is to do what he belatedly decided to preach.

That said, the other parties also have a responsibility. They must seek to understand and channel the discontent of the crowd, rather than despising and ridiculing it, which would only swell the tide (Justin Trudeau can attest to this).

All the leaders now agree on the fact that they have a responsibility to calm things down. If they all do this properly, our democracy will emerge stronger from this disturbing episode.

The article is in French

Tags: Threats elected officials collective responsibility

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