Mayor slams election vandalism, harassment as 'poison to democracy' – StCatharinesStandard.ca
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St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik says the divisiveness in politics has to stop after reports of vandalism and harassment in the city during the federal election.
Sendzik was speaking out about the spray painting of Liberal incumbent Chris Bittle’s car over the weekend, which took place on the MP’s driveway while his family slept.
But Sendzik said it wasn’t the only “unfortunate” and “disheartening” incident in the community during the election.
“There’s been an increase of harassment when campaigners are visiting doors. When other candidates are going door to door, they’re getting met with racial slurs. And this is here in our community,” Sendzik said during city council’s meeting Monday night.
“So when people say that racism doesn’t exist in St. Catharines, just listen to what some of the candidates are experiencing and the kind of hate that you’re seeing with that vandalism that was taking place.”
Sendzik said the behaviours are a “poison to democracy.”
“When people talk about democracy, they don’t talk about that kind of democracy. They don’t talk about the freedom to be able to express your hatred toward someone or to be able to vandalize some of their property. That’s not democracy,” he said.
“People need to just understand that when it comes to politics, there’s healthy debate, which I think we all appreciate. But that divisiveness that’s come into this has to stop. It’s not healthy for anybody.”
Sendzik said he knows all St. Catharines councillors feel the same way he does because they are all elected people who go door-to-door and see the feedback that comes in on social media.
Bittle’s Mazda SUV was vandalized overnight Sunday with the words “FU Liberals” spray painted across the back.
Niagara Regional Police said they are investigating.
Bittle said he would not be intimidated and would continue his campaign. Fellow St. Catharines riding candidates Conservative Krystina Waler, NDP Trecia McLennon and Green Catherine Rhodes condemned the vandalism on Twitter after Bittle shared the incident.
Sendzik said it was a cowardly act and he hopes police catch the person.
“I think the people who are pushing these kind of acts or who are encouraging these kind of activities, they need to stop and they need to check themselves as well,” he said.
“It’s frustrating because all the candidates that are running in our community, I believe, are good people just trying to get their position out there. No one needs to be subjected to that kind of behaviour.”
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