A Sober Second Thought on Civility after Senator Clement’s Ordeal

Jason Setnyk
A Sober Second Thought on Civility after Senator Clement’s Ordeal

Before the new year, a disconcerting series of events unfolded in the Canadian Senate, culminating in Senator Bernadette Clement, a respected member of the Independent Senators Group, feeling unsafe in her private residence after a workplace incident. This episode not only raises serious concerns about the decorum in one of our highest legislative bodies but also underscores the essential need for safety and respect in political discourse.

The incident in question traces back to a heated debate over Bill C-234, aimed at exempting farmers from certain aspects of the Federal carbon tax. During the debate, Senator Clement, displaying her usual professionalism and commitment to procedural integrity, moved to adjourn the discussion, inciting an intense response from some of her colleagues. The situation escalated when Conservative Senate Opposition Leader Don Plett and others reportedly confronted Senator Clement in a reportedly inappropriate manner.

Adding fuel to the fire, Conservative MP Andrew Scheer shared a social media post, widely criticized for its tone and content, that placed Senator Clement and others in an unfavorable light. This post, akin to a ‘wanted’ poster, included her photo and contact details and was perceived by many as an indirect invitation to harass the senator. Following this, Senator Clement faced significant online harassment and feared for her physical safety, necessitating police intervention and temporary relocation from her private residence for her protection.

It is essential to recognize Senator Clement’s long-standing commitment to public service and her ability to separate political views from procedural duties. Elected as the first Black female mayor in Ontario before her Senate appointment, she has demonstrated an unwavering dedication to the principles of good governance and respectful debate. Her actions in the Senate have consistently reflected this ethos, grounded in a belief in the institution’s democratic processes.

However, the recent events highlight a troubling trend where disagreements transcend the bounds of healthy debate, veering into personal and unsafe territories. It is imperative to remember that while disagreements are inherent and even necessary in a democracy, they must always be conducted with respect and within the parameters of safety, especially in the workplace. No individual, regardless of their political affiliations or viewpoints, should feel threatened or unsafe while performing their duties.

This incident serves as a stark reminder of the Senate’s role in our legislative process. As a body designed to provide sober second thought, the Senate’s effectiveness hinges on its ability to debate rigorously yet respectfully without fear for personal safety. The undermining of this principle not only jeopardizes individual senators’ well-being but also the very function of this esteemed institution.

As we move forward, it is crucial to recommit to the values of respectful discourse and personal safety in political arenas. The Senate, as a cornerstone of our democracy, should exemplify these values, fostering an environment where every member can contribute without fear or intimidation.

The events involving Senator Clement are a wake-up call to all involved in politics, from elected officials to the general public, underscoring the need for a more civil and secure atmosphere in political engagement. Let us use this moment as an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to these fundamental democratic principles.

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