Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden is facing public scrutiny after he claimed that he was punched in the face by an anti-'gender ideology' activist at a rally on Friday.
After reports of the alleged assault circulated on social media, video footage captured at the rally appears to show a megaphone striking Harden's face at the same place where he claimed he was allegedly punched.
— Caryma Sa'd - Lawyer + Political Satirist (@CarymaRules) June 11, 2023
Yahoo News Canada has since reached out to Harden for a statement in response to allegations behind the factuality of the incident.
Ottawa MPP claims he was assaulted Friday by anti-'gender ideology' activist
Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden claims he was allegedly assaulted by an anti-'gender ideology' activist while attending a rally in support of queer and trans rights in Ottawa Friday morning.
Harden, who recently spoke at the Ontario Legislation on Thursday about the importance of protection for queer and trans youth as the country celebrates Pride Month, claims he was punched several times by the anti-trans protestor.
As incidents of hate against the 2SLGBTQIA are rising, we have a message for queer and trans youth in #OttawaCentre and everywhere in this province:
We see you, love you, value you, and we will not continue to let you be threatened by hate or bigotry. 🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️#Onpoli #Pride pic.twitter.com/nqDxUiy5Lh
— Joel Harden (@JoelHardenONDP) June 8, 2023
Harden says he attended the Broadview rally on Friday morning to support queer and trans youth, and potentially de-escalate any violent situation as events have been targeted by anti-'gender ideology' activists in the past.
"We held a part of the street far away from schools as we did not want to be protesting in front of schools, so we gathered near where they said they would gather," Harden said.
Police were also on hand to ensure public safety.
I felt something really bad was going to happenJoel Harden, Ottawa Centre MPP
Harden said that out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a woman berating another individual and had her hands in the person's hair. He rushed over and stood between them in an attempt to ensure the safety of everyone in attendance.
"I felt a punch in the back and then a rabbit-punch to the face," Harden recounted. "It happened in a split-second."
And punching people in the face.
But I’ll take a punch for queer and trans youth any day. pic.twitter.com/vNHArmFtBX
— Joel Harden (@JoelHardenONDP) June 9, 2023
He also said that one of the members of the rally quickly pulled the woman away after realizing what had happened.
— Kevin Nguyen (@Kevinvnguyyen) June 9, 2023
Harden, who has long sounded the alarm on rising hate against queer and trans people, believes that there is a deliberate effort to manipulate people's desire to safeguard children and it's being weaponized.
"I am a father. What measures I wouldn't go to in an effort to protect my own children. But what this movement is doing is convincing individuals that to protect your children, you have to hate trans and queer people," he says.
The MPP, who was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario five years ago, believes that much of this hatred stems from a place of fear of not understanding LGBTQ2S+ experiences and that is why, bridges need to be built to start conversations.
"We are not your enemy," he added.
This is absolute madness.
The far-right mob is not even at a school anymore, they’re just standing in the middle of a residential street in Westboro chanting nonsense in the direction of random homeowners to “leave our kids alone.” pic.twitter.com/nqY5ANA9nk
— Luke LeBrun (@_llebrun) June 9, 2023
Harden also believes that social media has become this "vitriolic cesspool" where individuals are dehumanizing each other increasingly.
"History and present day has taught me that there are some of us who are willing to put the work in to de-program hatred, and I'm down for that," said Harden. "If people want to come to my office and throw rotten tomatoes at me, come over."
Harden says he remains hopeful that people will come together and build solidarity.
Harden also said that if he were to ever meet the woman who allegedly assaulted him, he would like to "share a meal with her".
"If I meet her again, and I hope I do, I would like to share a meal with her, heck, I would pay for it. Then I would ask her what motivated her to do what she did. I want to work together to try and fix our country to make it better," he said.
Mixed reaction pours in over social media
Harden received a mixed reaction of scrutiny and support after posting a photo of what appears to be an injury to his face on social media after the incident.
"I’ll take a punch for queer and trans youth any day," Harden tweeted.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh shared a tweet saying he was proud of Harden for standing up.
"Queer and trans people—and kids—are being targeted by angry and hateful extremists. Governments must step up to protect the queer and trans community," he wrote.
I'm proud of you @JoelHardenONDP.
Queer and Trans people - and kids - are being targeted by angry and hateful extremists.
Governments must step up to protect the queer and trans community. https://t.co/j3ihWCumBA
— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) June 9, 2023
Dissection of video footage from Friday's rally led social media commentators to question what Harden described as a "rabbit-punch to the face."
Open question to Ontario NDP Leader @maritstiles: do you condone your NDP MPPs lying to the public like @JoelHardenONDP did? Ontarians deserve better & a public statement.
CC: @brianlilley @joe_warmington pic.twitter.com/5ZkayyIQqG
— Rowan (@canmericanized) June 11, 2023
Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe shared a tweet stating that "hate has no place in our city."
"Protests like the one today on Broadview should not be allowed to disrupt children and their education. And hatred has no place anywhere in our city," he wrote.
Ottawa's transgender and 2SLGBTQ+ community members need and deserve our support. And schools should be a safe space for children to learn and develop, not a target for political protests.
Protests like the one today on Broadview should not be allowed to disrupt children and…
— Mark Sutcliffe (@_MarkSutcliffe) June 9, 2023
Another Twitter user shared "it’s time to come together, mobilize, and build solidarity on this issue."
My local MPP @JoelHardenONDP just got punched in the face at a counter rally, during an anti-trans protest.
Queer and trans people are sounding the alarm on rising hate.
It’s time to come together, mobilize, and build solidarity on this issue. https://t.co/uZ3v8W9kSL
— Kathryn LeBlanc (she/her) 🏳️🌈 (@Kat_LeBlanc) June 9, 2023
Twitter user Fae Johnstone thanked Harden for his longstanding efforts to take on the hatred that the LGBTQ2 community faces.
Jesus Christ. I’m sorry Joel, and I hope you’re okay. Thank you for always standing by 🏳️⚧️🏳️🌈 communities and our rights.
We must take the rise in far-right anti-2SLGBTQIA+ hate seriously. https://t.co/8bGalrsaE2
— Fae Johnstone, MSW (@FaeJohnstone) June 9, 2023
Editor's note: Yahoo Canada has updated this story to reflect the claims Ottawa MPP Joel Harden made about an attack was an alleged incident, which is still under investigation.