Senator Bernadette Clement says she feared for her safety after receiving a threatening phone call following a tweet by former Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer in the style of a wanted poster with her picture and office phone number.
Mr. Scheer’s post on X, formerly Twitter, urged people to call the senator’s office and claimed she had shut down debate on a Conservative-backed bill that would help farmers get a carbon tax carve-out.
Ms. Clement said his post prompted a stream of angry calls to her office, racist abuse online and a threatening phone call from an unknown man who said he was coming to her house. The call is being investigated by parliamentary security.
In a dramatic scene in the Senate on Tuesday evening, senators from different groups stood up to support Ms. Clement and to condemn Conservative conduct toward her and two other women senators.
Senator Raymonde Saint-Germain, the facilitator of the Independent Senators Group, raised a point of privilege with the Senate speaker about intimidation attempts.
She said one Conservative senator shouted “fascists” at the independent senators, and there were attempts at bullying. Ms. Saint-Germain condemned the post by Mr. Scheer, which she said “resembled a ‘wanted’ poster from the 1800s Wild West“ and “elicited high volumes of threatening phone calls and e-mails to these independent senators.”
“It got so out of control that one of our senators had serious reasons to fear for her physical safety and was forced to leave her private residence and spend her weekend elsewhere in a secure location,” she said. “It got so out of control that the Senate security team, together with local police, is still working on this case.”
Ms. Clement, who is Black and sits as an independent senator, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail that after Mr. Scheer’s post on X, which was retweeted by some Conservative senators, she became the target of vitriol online, including racist and misogynistic comments that she reported to X. They are being investigated by the social media platform, she said.
She said her local Cornwall, Ont., police were “excellent” when she reported the man’s threat to come to her home and the Parliamentary Protective Services are still investigating.
The onslaught was a result of her decision on Nov. 9 to call for an adjournment of debate in the Senate on a bill the Conservatives support, which would remove the federal carbon tax from propane and natural gas used on farms for grain drying, barn heating, and other purposes.
She said she wanted a halt to debate to give a chance for other senators, who were not in the chamber, to speak. But Conservatives believe she was trying to stall the passage of the bill.
Mr. Scheer’s tweet, posted last week when the Senate was not sitting, suggested she was working to help Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The post displayed photos of Ms. Clement and Quebec Senator Chantal Peticlerc, who helped propose the adjournment motion, on a post that Ms. Clement says was designed, with ripped edges, to look like a “wanted poster.”
“Call and ask these Trudeau Senators why they shut down debate on giving farmers a carbon tax carveout,” Mr. Scheer’s post said above their photos, with their office phone numbers and e-mail addresses underneath.
Ms. Petitclerc said in an interview that Mr. Sheer’s tweet had led to her office being inundated with phone calls, including “brutal” and sexist voice mails.
“In my case there was no direct threat. The language was vulgar and abusive and aggressive,” she said. “I feel horrible for my staff who had to absorb this.”
As a former paralympian, she said she believed in “fair play” and Mr. Scheer’s post implying that she as seconder of the adjournment motion had tried to shut down debate was misleading.
“We didn’t shut down debate, we adjourned it because other colleagues couldn’t speak,” she said
Ms. Clement said she decided to leave her house in Cornwall, where she was the town’s first Black mayor and her address was well-known, to stay in Ottawa, where her location was protected. She said she had also left her panic button in Ottawa, and is now carrying it with her.
Ms. Clement said she “froze” after the Conservative leader in the Senate, Don Plett, came over and berated her and two other senators, including Ms. Saint-Germain, on Nov. 9, after the adjournment was called.
“He stood over our desks in very close proximity. I felt the spittle landing on my laptop. He was yelling,” she said.
Mr. Plett’s spokeswoman said the Conservative leader had gone to speak to Ms. Saint-Germain after the surprise call for an adjournment, because he understood there had been an agreement to have a vote on the bill that day. Ms. Clement was sitting next to Ms. Saint-Germain and he was not leaning over her but against a table, she said.
“The debate over Bill C-234 on Nov. 9 got quite heated on all sides of the chamber,” Mr. Plett told The Globe. “My intentions were never meant to be mean-spirited. I recognize and understand what happened, and will address this in a fulsome manner on Thursday.”
Ms. Saint-Germain, facilitator of the Independent Group of Senators, told the Senate that a “line has been crossed” and called for action to be taken by the speaker.
She said there had been “physical and verbal threats, bullying and harassment experienced by members of our group and members of other groups that day by Conservative senators.”
“We are all here to act honourably. That is not done through intimidation, doxing and online lies,” she said. “We are not doing that when we shout and scream in this chamber across the aisle because a motion was moved that we disagree with.”
Independent Senator Tony Dean told The Globe the Senate “was sending a clear signal that this aggressive form of politics is not going to be tolerated any more.”
Mr. Scheer did not respond to a request for comment. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s spokesman Sebastian Skamski said Ms. Clement had run in elections as a Liberal and was appointed by the Senate by Mr. Trudeau. He said she was doing the Prime Minister’s bidding.