Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen says he and his family have experienced a noticeable increase in threats and concerning incidents during this pandemic.
Goertzen is a high-profile politician in Manitoba as he is Deputy Premier, Minister of Legislative and Public Affairs, and also served as interim Health Minister for short time this year while Heather Stefanson was out for medical reasons.
He and his family have received multiple concerning threats over the last year and a half.
"We've definitely had instances that have happened at our home in the public that certainly resulted in the involvement of law enforcement and security at the legislature. They have been troubling, particularly for my wife and my son and it has caused us to have to be a bit more careful in certain things that we do."
Having been a politician for many years now, Goertzen says he has received threats or experienced concerning incidents in the past but things have certainly escalated as a result of COVID-19. He notes, unfortunately, often the families of politicians and public health officials are more affected than the individuals who are being targeted.
Goertzen isn’t alone.
After news broke that a Manitoban judge was being tailed by a private investigator hired by a group fighting COVID-19 restriction, Manitoba’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin revealed he and his family have been receiving almost daily threats and troubling messages.
"It's not just a single occasion," Roussin says. "To get a call from law enforcement when at the time I wasn't at home but my family was, it's a little bit concerning. I don't think that any of us can legitimately accept that threats against someone or their family are acceptable no matter how much you disagree with some of the protections."
Goertzen says the Government of Manitoba and public health officials make many decisions that not everyone agrees with, decisions he doesn’t even always agree with, but we need to disagree and express our concerns in a respectful way.
"As elected officials, we are accountable for our decisions but collectively as a society, we are accountable for our behaviour. It is important that we all do our best even in the most difficult of times to behave in a way that when we are past the pandemic, which I believe will be sooner than later, we can look back and be proud of the way that we responded."
Goertzen notes it is also important to recognize not just the people who have been issuing threats but also those that have stepped up in a supportive way.
"For sure we've experienced some of those things that are really concerning that have touched my family really personally but I also try to remember that we've also experienced some of the most incredible acts of graciousness and kindness from people as well."