A northern Alberta MLA says a group of people protesting COVID-19 restrictions crossed a line when they gathered outside her private residence and left behind a noose marked with a violent threat.
Tracy Allard says a protest began Sunday afternoon outside her home in Grande Prairie and soon grew to about 30 people. She said RCMP were called and the crowd dispersed about 90 minutes after police arrived.
Left behind was a noose attached to a small wooden gallows painted with the words "no to masks, end the gov't, hang 'em all," Allard said in a statement posted to Facebook on Monday.
An image posted by Allard shows the wooden structure lying on her lawn.
Finding the noose was "chilling," said Allard, who has served as a UCP MLA in the Grande Prairie riding since 2019.
"This is a shocking act of aggression, a clear threat, and a sad punctuation mark on the polarization and anger in our society," Allard wrote in the statement.
"Beyond my outrage and my shock, I feel a deep sadness. I feel heartbreak … because what I see behind this act is a growing fear that is gripping our community."
Allard said those who gathered Sunday disrespected her home, her private life and her neighbours.
"Did you consider the people in my neighbourhood … the preschool children that live in my cul-de-sac?" she wrote.
'My heart just sank'
While speaking with reporters at the legislature on Tuesday about the incident, Allard broke down in tears.
Allard said she was not home when the demonstration began but watched the incident unfold through her home security cameras.
"My heart just sank," Allard said, her voice breaking. "2021 has been a very rough year for my family.
"As a woman in politics, I think it's been really challenging to see how cruel people can be.
"I am emotional because I am thinking of my daughter who has faced significant backlash as the daughter of a politician and that should not be the case."
Allard said she is concerned the incident will discourage the next generation of Albertans, especially young women, from getting involved in politics.
"I am concerned about the younger people that are watching this, the younger people who are watching good people in politics get vilified for all the wrong reasons."
Allard said she does not know who organized the demonstration. She said she is working with the legislature's sergeant-at-arms to investigate further.
She said politics has become too polarized and the stress of the pandemic has made people angry and intolerant.
"I hope that I am leading by example, to show kindness in the face of an act of aggression."
Grande Prairie RCMP said they were called to the scene around 2:45 p.m. Sunday.
Officers responded and found a "large group" of protestors gathered in a residential area, Const. Lindsay Ralph told CBC News.
Ralph said officers noticed protestors had attached a noose to a fence near the property and asked that it be taken down. The noose was removed, as requested, Ralph said.
The demonstrators were protesting peacefully, being respectful and "not causing any issues" with traffic, Ralph said.
No arrests were made and no additional complaints were filed regarding the demonstration, Ralph said. Police were not aware the noose had been left behind, she said.
Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu decried the protest and said he was "horrified" to learn that Allard was subject to intimidation.
"Public officials and their families deserve to feel safe, especially in their homes," Madu wrote in a social media statement. "Intimidation and threats of violence are never acceptable and hurt the dialogue of our democracy."
Anger driven by fear, Allard says
In her Facebook post, Allard said the protestors and the noose symbolize the deep divisions and fear created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The uncertainty of the past 20 months, including "confusing and seemingly contradictory restrictions" imposed by governments around the world, has left citizens confused and uncertain, she said.
Allard said the incident has inspired her to consult more with her constituents, to ensure she is listening without judgment. She urged other Albertans and government decision-makers to do the same.
"I think that's the key: listening to understand instead of listening to be right," Allard wrote.
Allard said she has always fought for freedom and for choice with Alberta's COVID-19 restrictions. She said she remains committed to representing her constituents.
"The irony to me is that I am an MLA who is committed to working hard to be a voice for ALL," Allard wrote. "I regularly bring forward questions and fight for better policy.... I understand, for example, that the group of unvaccinated people across Alberta is not a homogenous group of 'anti-vaxxers.'"
Allard said any constituents concerned about the government response to the pandemic are encouraged to contact her office, but she asked that her family be left alone.