Man charged with threatening Ottawa city councillor

A 47-year-old Ottawa man has been charged with uttering threats and harassment after Rideau-Vanier Coun. Stéphanie Plante received a series of what she called "very scary" emails last week.

Ottawa police have confirmed the charges but did not name Plante as the target. Police told CBC they received a complaint about the emails on June 21.

Plante said the emails specifically mentioned the fact that she's francophone, and noted they also contained the sender's full name and contact information.

"I never, ever expected the fact that I am francophone and that I speak French to be such a polarizing issue, especially in this area, but for this individual it was to the point of threatening my life," she said.

"I really hope I never see anything like that ever again in my inbox, but I know it's something that other colleagues deal with every single day, and it has to stop."

Police told CBC the accused appeared in court earlier today.


Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said elected officials are increasingly being subjected to such threats, which he called a symptom of the times.

"I think people need to be reminded that we're human beings, that we are simply trying to do our jobs," he said.

Ottawa police Chief Eric Stubbs said on Wednesday he's spoken to federal, provincial and municipal politicians about the growing concerns over their safety and security. He encouraged people to report any threat that constitutes a criminal code violation so that the alleged perpetrators can be held accountable.

Both Sutcliffe and Stubbs said people have the right to express their views about elected officials, but said speech that threatens someone's safety crosses the line.

"Expressing your opinions is what we're all about and people have the right to do that with their politicians. They just need to do it safely and within the law," Stubbs said.

"You may not always agree with what we're doing, but there's no place in our society for threats or for violence," Sutcliffe added.

Gatineau, Que., Mayor France Bélisle was emotional as she announced Feb. 22, 2024 she is stepping down.
France Bélisle was emotional when she announced her decision to step down as mayor of Gatineau, Que., on Feb. 22. (Audrey Neveu/Radio-Canada)

Anger toward politicians on the rise

In February, France Bélisle announced her decision to step down as mayor of Gatineau, Que., citing death threats she had received and a hostile political climate.

Earlier this month, Quebec adopted a law that includes fines up to $1,500 for anyone who intimidates or harasses a politician.

Data from Pollara Strategic Insights in April show Canadians' anger toward all levels of government is now at its highest level in two years of tracking the national mood.

Pollara's rage index survey asked how people feel about six different topics including the federal government, the provincial government, the Canadian economy and the latest stories in the news.

Dan Arnold, chief strategy officer with Pollara, pointed to a few factors that contribute to this trend, and said it could lead to more threats against politicians.

Arnold also pointed to the pent-up frustration that came as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the government's handling of it as possible factors underpinning such incidents.

"When you kind of take hope away from people and they feel like the deck is stacked against them and that they don't have opportunities, that is naturally going to lead to increased anger," he said.

Arnold also pointed to the influence of former U.S. president Donald Trump and other public figures who encourage aggression toward public figures and institutions.

"When people get emboldened by political leaders, or get emboldened by seeing other people doing it, that can certainly lead to more people feeling like this is acceptable or being encouraged implicitly to do these sort of things," he said.