Online jibes at Manitoba’s senior federal cabinet minister Vic Toews have escalated to threats of "criminal acts" against him and his family, he said on Saturday.
Toews made the disclosure in an open email to his constituents. His office confirmed the attacks were more than just the mischievous "Vikileaks" posted on Twitter this week.
"Threatening communications have been directed at the minister. These incidents have been reported to the proper authorities," said Mike Patton, Toews’ press secretary, in a telephone interview from Ottawa.
Toews’ office would give few details but the Free Press has been told Toews claims to have received threats of physical harm against him and his family. The threats have been forwarded to police.
That may explain the tenor of his email early Saturday morning, in which Toews comes out swinging to constituents of his Provencher riding. He goes from vowing to continue as public safety minister, to making strong declarations of love for his present family. Affidavits from his divorce were posted on Twitter this week.
"I would like you to know that the personal attacks, criminal acts and threats of future criminal acts against me will not dissuade me from carrying out my responsibilities as an elected Member of the House of Commons and as the Minister of Public Safety for Canada," he said.
There has been a tremendous furor surrounding Toews since he tabled the Tories’ online surveillance bill in the House of Commons that some people say imperils civil liberties.
While introducing the bill, Toews told the House that "you can stand with us (and support the bill) or stand with the child pornographers." The surveillance bill is called the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act.
Shortly after, someone began posting affidavits from his divorce proceedings on Twitter. That was followed by a Twitter hashtag called #TellVicEverything where people submitted the most mundane details of their lives for the surveillance of the minister.
On the CBC Radio program The House, aired on Saturday but taped the day before, Toews indicated he got a chuckle out of some of the comments left on Twitter. It is "actually very amusing and very pleasant that this many people would be concerned with what I think, and secondly, that they want to tell me," he said.
Toews did not mention the threats at the time.
However, in his email to constituents, it is clear he views the opposition to his bill in partisan terms. "I have been subjected to an extensive personal attack by my political opponents as a result of certain legislation that I have introduced," he says.
Michael Zwaagstra, Provencher Conservative Party Association president, said he was not aware of any other alleged criminal activity against Toews other than the online attacks, but agreed the allegations sound serious in the letter. "All that I’m aware of is what’s been in the media," he said.
It’s difficult to gauge reaction to the Vikileaks escapades against Toews in his riding. He told the CBC radio program The House that he had increased his majority to 70 per cent of the vote in the last election.
In an editorial in this week’s Carillon newspaper, publisher Peter Dyck took issue with Toews’ "child pornographers" remark, more so than the Twitter storm that followed. The editorial was titled, "Toews needs to take a deep breath."
"The minister... is hurting his own government by trying to destroy anyone who disagrees with his views," Dyck wrote.
Meanwhile, another Twitter account started this weekend called @VicDangerToews that promises a more serious discussion about the online surveillance bill’s implications.