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St. James voter angry over candidate’s doorstep behaviour

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St. James resident Jordan Shelest said video from his doorbell camera shows school board candidate Pierre Attallah rummaging through his mailbox shortly after 5 p.m. on Sept. 30. “That’s when I noticed he slipped whatever was in the mailbox under his tablet,” said Shelest. “I was pretty angry. I kind of felt violated that somebody would be rummaging through our mailbox.

A school board candidate in Winnipeg is being accused of removing a competitor’s campaign literature from a constituent’s mailbox.

St. James resident Jordan Shelest said video from his doorbell camera shows Pierre Attallah rummaging through his mailbox shortly after 5 p.m. on Sept. 30.

“That’s when I noticed he slipped whatever was in the mailbox under his tablet,” said Shelest. “I was pretty angry. I kind of felt violated that somebody would be rummaging through our mailbox.

“That’s not somebody I’d like to be in that position (as a school board trustee) at all.”

In a brief phone interview, Attallah, who is running for trustee in St. James-Assiniboia School Division’s centre ward, denied the allegations.

He hung up as a Free Press reporter began to ask additional questions.

Shelest watched the footage remotely, when the home security system sent a motion alert to an app on his smartphone while Attallah was on his doorstep.

Shelest said video from about 2 p.m. showed a woman leaving campaign literature for a different candidate in his mailbox.

He believes Attallah took that literature with him when he left the doorstep.

Shelest didn’t recognize the woman, and he doesn’t know if that literature belonged to a candidate for school board or council.

There was no Canada Post delivery Sept. 30 due to it being the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

Shelest shared the video on Facebook on Oct. 1. The clip went viral while being shared on social media websites Wednesday.

“A lot of people were appalled by it — digging through someone’s mailbox, it’s private property,” he said.

Shelest didn’t think to file a police report, but he did send an email to the city’s election office.

He said he didn’t receive a response.

The City of Winnipeg would not say if it has received complaints about Attallah.

“If any private citizen has evidence of theft or mail theft or any illegal activity, we would recommend such matters be reported directly to the appropriate authority, including the Winnipeg Police Service and/or Canada Post, as circumstances merit,” spokesman David Driedger wrote in an email.

Attallah is one of four candidates vying to fill three seats in the centre ward. The other candidates are Rachelle Wood, incumbent Craig Glennie and Michael Cabral.

Attallah runs an internet security company. The bottom of his campaign website states his opposition to SOGI 123.

The initiative, which is used in B.C. and Alberta, is designed to help teachers make schools inclusive and safe for students of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Attallah’s website links to a webpage for Action4Canada, which opposes SOGI 123.

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network has described Action4Canada as a far-right, Christian nationalist group that campaigns against LGBTTQ+ issues, abortion and COVID-19 face mask and vaccine mandates, among other things.

The organization participated in the so-called freedom convoy movement. It has shared conspiracy theories about 5G technology.

Glennie, the lone incumbent to seek re-election in the ward, didn’t want to discuss the video or Attallah’s platform.

“I just hope the residents take the time to carefully review the candidates and their stance on issues that affect the students, the schools and the community,” said Glennie. “Trustees are community leaders. It’s important that they have positive and progressive views to help ensure our children get the best education possible.”

Wood said candidates should share their plans, if elected, so voters can make an informed decision.

“The people of St. James want elections to be fair and for their school trustees to have integrity,” she wrote in an email. “It is hard to tell what this candidate removed from a voter’s mailbox. But needless to say, removing anything from another person’s mailbox is wrong.”

In the court of public opinion, it would be “embarrassing” if a candidate is found to have rummaged through a mailbox, said Christopher Adams, an adjunct professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba.

“I would say it doesn’t help the attitude of the public about the electoral process,” he said of the video.

While canvassing, Shawn Nason, who is running for re-election as city councillor for Transcona, has noticed more doorbell cameras than the 2018 municipal election campaign.

“You’ve got to be prepared that somebody’s watching,” he said.

Nason, Glennie and Wood said voters have been welcoming while they’ve been knocking on doors.

They said they’ve been keeping a safe distance when speaking to residents because of varying comfort levels amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Arthur Schafer, director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba, said canvassing creates a clash between “democratic principle” and privacy at home.

It could be a nuisance or cause anxiety for some residents, he said.

For him, “democratic governance” trumps the fact some people may feel uneasy, but candidates should be aware of potential privacy concerns while going door to door.

“It’s an important privilege that should be earned by respectful behaviour on the part of the candidate and those working for them,” said Schafer.

Rummaging through someone’s mailbox is not acceptable behaviour, he said.

chris.kitching@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @chriskitching

Chris Kitching
Reporter

As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

History

Updated on Thursday, October 13, 2022 10:08 AM CDT: Corrects spelling of Attallah in cutline

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