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'I was really scared': Candidates targeted during Quebec election campaign

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Two Liberal candidates in the Quebec election campaign are denouncing recent targeted attacks after one had his constituency office broken into and his computers stolen, while another was on the receiving end of death threats.

Marwah Rizqy, the incumbent candidate for Montreal's Saint-Laurent riding, said in recent days someone posted threats against her on Facebook, before the attacks escalated to phone calls.

"The man started calling to my local police and saying that, hey on this street, which is the street where I live, you should go right now. A murder just happened and you're going to find the body of Mrs. Rizqy," she recounted for reporterts during a scrum on Wednesday.

Rizqy, who is eight months pregnant, said Montreal police, with the help of the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), were able to locate a suspect and arrest him last Thursday. He appeared in court to face charges Friday and was released on conditions, including not to contact Rizqy, the politician revealed.

Court records show 62-year-old Claude Delaney of Sorel-Tracy, Que., was charged with one count of criminal harassment and one count of harassing communications against Rizqy. The alleged offences took place between Sept. 1, 2021 and Aug. 25, 2022. 

"Last week was a tough week for me. It was the first time I was really scared and at some point, I'm like, I don't know if I want to keep [campaigning]," she said.

CALLS FOR MORE SECURITY

The provincial police force, the SQ, propositioned that she campaign from home, but she said that wasn't an option. She praised the support she received from the president of Quebec's national assembly, François Paradis, who helped secure her a police escort for one day.

But she said that's not enough.

"Today, what I'm asking is simply — can we have more protection for elected officials, especially when we know that there's a real threat out there?" she said Wednesday.

Marwah Rizqy, the incumbent Liberal candidate in the Saint-Laurent riding of Montreal, speaks to reporters on Wednesday Aug. 31, 2022, about recent death threats she received. (CTV News)

After some sleepless lights, Rizqy is balancing her needs as an expectant mother and her duties on the campaign trail, and while she is relieved the person police believe was responsible was charged, she is troubled by the apparent wanton aggression coming from individuals looking to intimidate elected officials.

"This is not normal. This is not the Quebec that I know. I was born and raised here and we are usually very calm and we are able to have very tough discussions, but this little intensity, and angriness that I feel, it's not who we are," she said.

'EXTREMELY SADDENED AND WORRIED'

She also said the same suspect made repeated calls to her Liberal colleague, Enrico Ciccone, the incumbent candidate for Marquette, telling his office that "[Rizqy] is dead and you can find her body over there."

Ciccone's constituency office was broken into Tuesday evening. His office said in a statement that criminals broke through a wall of a neighbouring business to break into his office.

Liberal MNA Enrico Ciccone's constituency office in the Montreal borough of Lachine was targeted by burglars and vandals on Tuesday night.

"They caused a lot of property damage before making off with all of the employees' computers and the server that records all of the security camera footage," the statement said.

"I am extremely saddened and worried, especially for my employees and the citizens who trust us. A constituency office is the home of the citizens. It should be untouchable. We are there to serve the people," Ciccone added.

The SQ is investigating whether or not the two events are related. 

The targeted attacks also come at a time when security is being heightened for party leaders in Quebec — protection that doesn't normally extend beyond them and the premier.

This week, Parti Québécois (PQ) Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon acknowledged there is a "change in the political climate" now in Quebec. "I was given a bulletproof vest, for example," he revealed to reporters.

The Quebec Conservative Party also faced attacks over the weekend after two of its volunteers were threatened while putting up party election signs. The first incident took place in the Rosemont district of Montreal on Saturday and the second incident happened Sunday afternoon in Sept-Îles, in the riding of Duplessis. A suspect has been charged in the Rosemont attack, the party said. 

Questions are being raised elsewhere about whether politicians should have better security in public places.

Last weekend, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was confronted by an aggressive man who yelled profanities as she walked toward an elevator during a tour in Alberta. The RCMP is now investigating the incident and on Wednesday when Freeland appeared in public for the first time since the confrontation, she was flanked by security personnel.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also weighed into the debate Wednesday, saying it was "unfortunate" that the "aggressive bullying and hate-filled tactics of a small number of people" is causing a rethink of security measures.

"I think it's extremely important that we demonstrate the strength of our democracy, and part of the strength of our democracy is being able to see the minister of defence going shopping on the weekend to the local IGA," Trudeau said.

"We need to be able to have that connection that we've always prided ourselves in, of Canadians being able to have proximity to those who represent them."

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