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Deputy PM Freeland responds to harassment incident in Alberta

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Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has responded to an incident of verbal harassment in Alberta after video of the encounter was widely circulated on social media.

The video, which was shared on Twitter, shows a man and two women waiting at the lobby of Grande Prairie, Alta.'s city hall when Freeland and her staffers enter the building and approach the elevator.

"Chrystia!" the man yells.

"Yes!" Freeland responds.

What follows is a barrage of insults and swearing from the man, calling Freeland a "traitor" and a "f---ing b----" as she steps into the elevator.

"Get the f--- out of this province!" the man can be heard yelling, while another woman tells her, "You don't belong here."

Freeland responded to the incident Saturday.

"What happened yesterday was wrong," she said in a statement posted to Twitter. "Nobody, anywhere, should have to put up with threats and intimidation."

Freeland, who represents a downtown Toronto riding, was born in Peace River, Alta. and attended high school in Edmonton.

"I'm proud to be from Alberta," she said. "I'm going to keep coming back because Alberta is home."

A longer video of the incident, which appeared to be originally posted to TikTok, shows the man subsequently being escorted out of the building.

According to her official itinerary, Freeland had been in Grande Prairie on Friday meeting with local farmers and skilled tradespeople. She was at city hall to meet with the city’s mayor, Jackie Clayton.

Current and former politicians across various parties took to social media to show their support for Freeland and denounce the verbal harassment.

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough tweeted she was "disgusted by what my brilliant colleague @cafreeland faced yesterday," while Defence Minister Anita Anand said she was "appalled by the threats and intimidation" directed at Freeland.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino also condemned the incident.

"This kind of behaviour needs to be called out and condemned by everyone, regardless of political affiliation,” he said in a tweet.

Across the aisle, B.C. Conservative MP Dan Albas called the video "alarming" and said this type of behaviour "has no place here in Canada.” Conservative leadership candidate Jean Charest called it "dangerous behaviour" and "gross intimidation."

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney also called the harassment "reprehensible."

"If you disagree with a politician, by all means exercise your right to protest. But screaming threatening language & physical intimidation cross the line," Kenney said in a tweet.

Heather McPhereson, an NDP MP from Edmonton, also expressed support for Freeland, tweeting, "I don’t always agree on the decisions made by your government, but on behalf of the vast majority of Albertans who are kind, generous and decent, you are welcome here."

Aside from the Prime Minister, federal cabinet ministers typically aren't provided a security detail except in rare circumstances. Back in 2019, then-Environment Minister Catherine McKenna revealed she had to get a security detail after receiving repeated threats and vitriolic messages, both online and in person.

With files from The Canadian Press

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