The death threats against B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prompted a police response, officials confirmed Wednesday.
Henry discussed the threats while addressing the Union of B.C. Municipalities on Tuesday, as well as the abusive messages and phone calls her office has received during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We become a target," Henry said. "I've had to have security in my house. I've had death threats."
Adrian Dix, who has worked with Henry on the province's COVID-19 response for months as health minister, told CTV News that law enforcement was involved with responding to the threats, but could not give further details.
"We have extraordinarily professional police services in B.C. We're very fortunate and we take their guidance and follow their guidance and we give every support to Dr. Henry," he added.
Whether that means investigating the threats as a criminal matter or providing protection to Henry is unclear.
The Ministry of Public Safety would not provide any details either. In an email, a spokesperson only said that government "takes threats to anyone in B.C.'s public service very seriously and works with the appropriate agencies and authorities to address them."
While campaigning on Wednesday, NDP Leader John Horgan said he was "horrified" to hear about the attempted intimidation of a dedicated public servant.
"It is beyond tragic that individuals in the community would use their anonymity of the Internet or other mechanisms to try and intimidate someone who gets up every day to try to make life better for people in her community," Horgan said.
Henry also told the UBCM she believes being a woman in a high-profile position makes certain people feel more comfortable targeting her than they would her male counterparts.
Dix said he agrees, and that he hasn't received any death threats since the start of the pandemic, despite being as much a part of the government's forward-facing response as Henry.
"I do think sometimes women in strong positions – strong, powerful, able women who are doing an extraordinary job like Dr. Henry – face this, and it's totally unacceptable," Dix said.
Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau said she was "sad and devastated" by the news, but not surprised.
“I’m so sorry for what she’s going through, and unfortunately for women in public positions this is becoming all too normal," Furstenau said.
Former premier Christy Clark wasn’t surprised either. “It’s just a really sad thing to imagine, that her of all people would be getting death threats and require security,” said Clark, who has often spoken of the misogyny and double standards she experienced while in office.
“The minute Bonnie Henry, who comes across as so warm and so supportive, puts the hammer down as says I’m going to be tough here, if she’s not likeable anymore, people aren’t going to be as kind to her,” Clark said. “And that is what sexism is.”
With files from The Canadian Press