Canadian police are investigating after the deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland, was subjected to a foul-mouthed tirade at a city hall meeting.
A video posted on Twitter shows a large man approaching Freeland during the session in Grande Prairie, Alberta, swearing at her and calling her a “traitor”.
The man in the video looms in front of open elevator doors and tells Freeland to get out of Alberta, while a woman tells her: “You don’t belong here.”
Canada’s Liberal party government and many of its Covid-19 policies have been unpopular in Alberta, which is Canada’s most conservative province.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said physical or verbal actions in person or online may violate the law, although it did not specify the potential violation. It added that if the criminal threshold is not met for laying charges, it examines threats and derogatory comments from an intelligence perspective.
Freeland was accompanied by some female staff when she was briefly approached on Friday, and the incident has been widely condemned.
“Threats, violence – intimidation of any kind – are always unacceptable, and this kind of cowardly behavior threatens and undermines our democracy and our values and openness and respect upon which Canada was built,” the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said on Monday.
Trudeau characterized the confrontation as a backlash of a type that has been growing on social media for many years, saying that women who speak up on social media are often subjected to harassment and toxicity. He said that diminishes a woman’s voice and her right to free expression.
Freeland, an Alberta native, has said that what happened was wrong and nobody should have to put up with threats and intimidation.
The Grande Prairie mayor, Jackie Clayton, said in a video posted online that the incident with Freeland was “a disgusting display of hatred and abuse”. She expressed gratitude for municipal staff who “calmly de-escalated the situation and acted in a highly professional manner despite the stressful circumstance”.