The Liberal candidate for Central Nova says the ugly tone of this federal election campaign is unlike anything he's seen before.
Sean Fraser took to Facebook on Monday to share his views on what he's seeing in Nova Scotia.
"This is more than just a few folks who are on the far fringe of Canadian politics who are bringing a level of anger into this campaign," Fraser said.
"This is something that's happening in our own backyard, our own signs. Like many times, many campaigns around the country have been vandalized. But what's really starting to communicate to me, this is more serious than somebody who's maybe had too much to drink on their way home."
Some of Fraser's campaign signs around Pictou County have been knocked over and stolen. On at least one sign, someone painted a swastika on Fraser's forehead.
"When you see people who've deliberately defaced signs with symbols of hate, like swastikas, which we've seen in our own community — they don't bother me personally. You sign up for some of this when you put your name on the ballot," said Fraser.
"But what really bothers me is we have Jewish people who live in our community. We have African Nova Scotia people who live in our community. We have gay people who live in our community."
Fraser's fellow federal Liberal candidate in Cape Breton is seeing it, too.
Jaime Battiste of Sydney-Victoria has seen many of his signs either knocked down or stolen.
He's posted photos of the damage on Facebook. The photos show images of his signs destroyed while those of Eddie Orrell, his Conservative Party of Candidate rival, are not.
"Today we're seeing ugly attempts to silence democratic debate here in Cape Breton," Battiste wrote on Facebook.
"I hope those who are out destroying and vandalizing the hard work of our volunteers take some time to consider the message they're sending to our communities and the families who live here.
Battiste made history in the 2019 federal election when he became the first Mi'kmaw MP elected to the House of Commons.
Fraser said he believes racism is at the root of some of the vandalism.
"I think the vast majority of people who vote for different parties do not hold racist views towards candidates," he said.
"But I am seeing when a racial minority candidate puts their name on the ballot, a serious uptick in the number of signs that are being defaced."
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Conservative Party Leader Erin O'Toole have denounced the profane protests that appear to be following Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's campaign.
O'Toole said any Conservative volunteer who tries to intimidate or harass other candidates will no longer be welcome in his party.
"I think it's obviously the right thing to do to condemn this kind of behaviour," Fraser said of those comments.
Issue not unique to Canadian politics
Fraser said public discourse and political debate have moved from community halls to social media.
"And look, it has been a long and difficult year for everyone. But I think there's a certain segment of society who is only fed information that they're already prone to agree with," Fraser said.
"You don't run into your neighbour when you're scrolling through Twitter."
Nelson Wiseman, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Toronto, said the vitriol directed at Trudeau and others during the campaign is happening all over the world. citing the U.S., France, Israel, Denmark and The Netherlands as examples.
Overwhelmingly, he said, the people involved are opposed to vaccinations, opposed to mandatory vaccinations and opposed to vaccination certificates or passports.
"I would say the overwhelming majority are people that are anxious or opposed to vaccination, and some subscribe to conspiracy theories," Wiseman said.
"It's not unique to Canada. When we hear profanities, they've become much more mainstream in the media. So people think that's perfectly acceptable language. And also social media has been a major factor because platforms such as Facebook has allowed people with similar views to get together and to echo. What they're hearing, what they're saying and and to hook up with others."
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