Full disclosure, as they say: this former (Conservative) cabinet minister is my (Liberal) wife’s best friend. They became friends some years ago, drawn together – with other women, from other parties – by their unapologetic opposition to the sexism and/or misogyny that is endemic in our politics. Still.
Also disclosure: we knew about the criminal harassment and the threats on social media, and how it had affected Michelle. How it would affect anyone.
She didn’t want the case publicized, then, so we said nothing about it to anybody.
Now, last week’s Twitter decision upset many people, and understandably so. It was the result of (a) imperfect complainants (b) a cloistered, tin-eared judge who thought he could understand Twitter by reading about it and (c) a piece of garbage “man” who deserves lengthy jail time to reflect on how his conduct would affect his mother and sisters and daughters.
In the wake of that judicial farce, the outcome in Michelle’s case needed to be known. So, she consented to an interview with one of the best young reporters around.
“It was really quite frightening and the appropriate route was to take it to the RCMP,” says Rempel. “It doesn’t matter if somebody is making a threat to someone or proposing violence to someone to their face or in a different medium, it’s still unacceptable.”
So, a good decision. A bit of an offset to the appalling decision that preceded it; a battle won. But the war isn’t over, not by a long shot. Obviously.
Having run this web site for fifteen years, I am familiar with online threats and harassment. A few years ago, a guy who disliked my politics declared, online, that he intended to rape and torture one of our sons. That won him a trip to the police station, and more.
That kind of stuff still happens. A group of Toronto neo-Nazis have been going after Lisa and I online – famously writing, a few weeks ago, that someone was going to end up “dead” – and the Toronto Police Service have done nothing about it. Zero. They’ve been beyond useless.
I’m a guy, however. I have the ability to go after, and defend against, criminal online harassers – using the law, or other means. (If you know what I mean.)
Many women, however, lack a web site like this one, or a law degree, or an army of smart readers (like you) who know how to hunt down anonymous creeps. They don’t have the resources to fight back.
That’s why Michelle Rempel’s case is so important. It shows that women need not take this online hate. It shows that you don’t need a law degree or unlimited resources to fight back and win.
Mark my words: Michelle Rempel will be Prime Minister one day. Her courtroom victory shows just one reason why – she’s a fighter.
And, with the action she took, the fight she took on alone – as a citizen, without publicity – she made Canada a little bit safer this week.