SHERBROOKE, Que. — Liberal candidate Marwah Rizqy blamed Conservative Party of Quebec Leader Éric Duhaime on Thursday for the highly charged political climate in which elected officials are being subjected to threats and violence.
Rizqy says she has been receiving deaths threats and that last week a man was charged with stalking her. The suspect allegedly called police to say he had murdered her and gave them a street name where her body could be found. He was arrested and released, despite the Crown's opposition. And earlier this week, the Montreal riding office of Liberal Enrico Ciccone was vandalized and robbed.
In response to the violence, Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault said he has asked Quebec provincial police to make themselves available to candidates who feel threatened or concerned about safety.
On a campaign stop in Sherbrooke, Que., Rizqy said Duhaime is to blame for the violent political environment because he said last June that his party's objective was to bring voters' discontent into the legislature.
"If your democratic legacy is to channel hatred, anger, it's a very bad legacy; maybe you have to reconsider the reasons you want to enter the legislature," she said.
Later in Montreal, Duhaime said he was disappointed by Rizqy's comments, adding that his party's volunteers have also been threatened at knifepoint and that politicians of all stripes are facing hatred. Duhaime noted he had voiced his support for Rizqy, but he said her comments "crossed a line."
“I understand that it is the election and that things are not going very well with the Liberal party, but I think it is very slippery ground and I urge caution," he said.
On the issue of bringing discontent into the legislature, Duhaime said his party is trying to channel people's anger against the government — particularly around COVID-19 restrictions — into a positive movement. He said people who disagree with Premier Legault and the CAQ deserve a voice in Quebec City.
"They were the victims of some (COVID-19) measures and those people lost their jobs, saw their kids drop out of schools, got mental health problems," he said.
"Those people were forgotten; they were put aside and they had a feeling there was unanimous consent at the (legislature) and their voice was not heard."
Later on Thursday, Legault released a 15-second video on social media calling for calm. "Unfortunately, we have seen threats over the last few days against candidates. It's not the Quebec we want. And we all have a responsibility not to stir up anger. So, please, let's be careful."
Québec solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said he's concerned the political climate is looking more and more like the one in the United States. “I see ideas circulating in Quebec that scare me,” he said.
Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said he is open to collaborating with the other parties to ensure a “respectful and safe” democracy.
Rizqy, meanwhile, called for elected officials to be outfitted with an electronic panic button for emergencies. And she said she feels unfairly penalized as the provincial police have advised her not to campaign and for her staff to stay away from her constituency office.
“To attack a member (of the legislature) is to attack democracy," she said. "Enough is enough."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 1, 2022.
— with files from Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal.
Patrice Bergeron, The Canadian Press