'I felt safe,' but others might not, NDP leader says of incident near Parliament

OTTAWA — NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says Canada needs to ensure elected officials don't feel bullied or intimidated for doing their work.

Singh commented Monday after he was followed and verbally accosted on the street in front of Parliament Hill last week by a man who asked if he wanted to be arrested.

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Video posted to social media showed Singh being followed along a sidewalk by a man and others, at least one of whom was recording the incident.

The man later told Singh that the next time they saw each other, the two would "have a dance."

The Parliamentary Protective Service, which polices Parliament Hill and the surrounding precinct under the ambit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said it was beefing up its presence in the area after receiving a complaint from the New Democrats and because of other recent incidents involving other MPs and members of the media.

Singh said he did not feel intimidated by the man because he is able to defend himself if necessary, but added that others may not feel the same.

"I felt safe and comfortable," Singh said of the situation, largely because he had years of martial arts training.

"But that should not be the standard that we have years and years of martial arts training … to be able to walk down the streets."

Singh, who does not normally have a security detail outside of an election period, said the choice between walking freely down a street and needing security is a complicated one, given the culture of openness enjoyed in Canada.

"The ability to approach your elected officials is important," he said Monday at an Ottawa news conference.

"But there is a balance we have to strike with safety and security."

Since Friday's incident, several MPs have come to Singh's defence, including Liberals Adam van Koeverden and cabinet minister Catherine McKenna, who has been at the receiving end of several threats against her and her staff.

"This is not OK," McKenna posted on social media. "And it is not what Canadians stand for. We are better than this."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2020.

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