Canadian Politicians, Writers Caught For Harassment Hashtags [Opinion]

While much has been made of late of the sexual misconduct and harassment going on in Hollywood – nevermind the insults that continue to come forth from President Donald Trump regarding pretty much anyone who does not agree with him – one would think that harassment might be something that the United States deals with more often than any of its neighbors. After all, Canadians are known for being so polite, we say “thanks” to ATMs, right?

Not so fast.

Canadian federal environment minister Catherine McKenna recently hauled Christopher Wilson, British Columbia bureau chief for The Rebel, a far-right news media site founded by former Sun News Network host Ezra Levant, on the carpet for his use of the hashtag #climateBarbie when referring to her. Wilson had identified himself as a reporter for The Rebel prior to asking McKenna a question regarding the Canadian federal government’s opinion about hydroelectricity as a clean energy source.

It would appear that McKenna has more than a passing familiarity with the harassment hashtags that The Rebel has been using to describe her.

“So you’re the Rebel Media that happens to call me ‘climate Barbie.’ I certainly hope that you will no longer use that hashtag,” McKenna said, according to Toronto Star.

Wilson then told McKenna that he personally had never used the hashtag, but it would appear that either he had forgotten he had used it previously or the truth was a convenience that he would prefer not to use. According to Toronto Star, Wilson has used the term on at least two occasions on Twitter and once in an article under his byline back in January of this year.

Some might not be terribly surprised that an agency such as The Rebel would engage in such harassment of a noted government figure. After all, McKenna is a minister with the currently ruling Liberal Party, and as a far-right organization, The Rebel might be seen as a dissenting voice calling for greater conservativism in government. That said, at least two other writers with The Rebel one of whom is Alberta bureau chief Sheila Gunn Reid – have referred to McKenna as “Climate Barbie,” with Gunn Reid even calling McKenna “our overly sensitive minister of Environment.”

However, the media is not solely responsible for these insults. Outgoing Conservative Member of Parliament Gerry Ritz, who has been heard in the past making at least one joke in poor taste, also referred to McKenna as “Climate Barbie” back in September. Andrew Scheer, Conservative Party leader, said he would contact McKenna and assure her that Ritz’s commentary had no place in the Conservative caucus. He also said that he has “a positive message to deliver to Canadians” and that he expects “all members of [his] caucus to embrace that approach when communicating with Canadians,” according to the Toronto Star.

Conservative MP Andrew Scheer, now leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, is seen here in this 2011 photo prior to the vote in the foyer of the House of Commons to become the new Speaker of the House on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, June 2, 2011. [Image by Sean Kilpatrick/AP Images/The Canadian Press]

Ritz later apologized to McKenna and deleted the tweet where he referred to her as “climate Barbie,” but McKenna asked him, via Twitter, if he would have ultimately used similar language with other female members of his family.

It ultimately does not matter one iota where the insults or harassment occurs. Much as Canadians are stereotypically polite, we need to expect more of our politicians and of the writers covering them. Harassment is not a phenomenon unique to the United States or even Hollywood; it’s something that has affected people of any gender everywhere, and we need to call it out. Having a difference of opinion is one thing and is a necessary component of polite discourse; insulting one of the parties you disagree with is not. “Climate Barbie” is a term that McKenna has been dealing with for some time, and while there are those who would deny that this could be labelled as harassment, one thing is certain: enough is enough, and we need to expect more from ourselves and our political representatives if we are to move beyond these schoolyard insults.

[Feature Image by George Pimentel/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures]