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N.L. Finance Minister shares cyber bullying messages


Newfoundland and Labrador Finance Minister Cathy Bennett is encouraging the public to take action against cyber bullying, highlighting her own experiences with online harassment.

In a personal news conference this morning at Confederation Building, Bennett read a statement about messages she has received since being elected, referring to them as “offensive, hurtful and demoralizing.”

A sampling of messages was shown on a screen in the corner of the room.

“You are simply a bad person. You should do the world a favour and kill yourself,” one stated.

“All Newfoundlanders should put a bounty on her head. She is a witch,” stated another.

The messages were not shown with any indications of when they were posted or sent, or where, or by whom. Bennett said they were all posted in public forums.

A couple of others, sent privately, were shown.

The messages included insinuations of violence and sexual violence.

“My message to the people who post things like this: it is not OK. Yes, send me a message about our policies, send me a message about how you disagree with a decision, don’t vote for me if you disagree with me, but it is not OK to say these things to women or to anyone,” she said.

Bennett admitted to briefly thinking of quitting based on comments, having obvious difficulty in delivering her address at times. She spoke to a room of female reporters at the Women’s Policy Office boardroom and said she requested to speak to women specifically for entirely personal reasons, adding her statement will now go out and she will be open to further interviews and questions — she just had to get her comments out once, to start.

"Today I encourage all of us to stand up to it and do not allow it," she said of cyber bullying and harassment.

While policy decisions could be a trigger for a wave of comments, the messages she found to cross the line also appeared apparently out of the blue at times.

Bennett said her family has been affected by the online harassment, but she kept her comments — and hopefully public conversation, she said — focused on her own experience as a public figure.

“None of these things that have happened or have been sent to me are comparable to those individuals who have suffered violence, and I want to be clear on that,” she said. “But I am saying, is this is how it starts, with shaming and insults and verbal abuse and I think I have a responsibility, and we collectively have a responsibility as a community, to no longer be bystanders and stand up when this happens.

“From my own perspective, I’m not going to let anyone take away my passion for doing what’s right, for fear of being attacked or verbally abused online.”

She would not say whether or not the police were following up on any of the messages.

She invited all female MHAs to join her in delivering the message and said those who were able to attend the news conference were there, acknowledging the other politicians in the room.

She called on the public to call out people who insist on posting inappropriate messages online.

afitzparick@thetelegram.com

In a personal news conference this morning at Confederation Building, Bennett read a statement about messages she has received since being elected, referring to them as “offensive, hurtful and demoralizing.”

A sampling of messages was shown on a screen in the corner of the room.

“You are simply a bad person. You should do the world a favour and kill yourself,” one stated.

“All Newfoundlanders should put a bounty on her head. She is a witch,” stated another.

The messages were not shown with any indications of when they were posted or sent, or where, or by whom. Bennett said they were all posted in public forums.

A couple of others, sent privately, were shown.

The messages included insinuations of violence and sexual violence.

“My message to the people who post things like this: it is not OK. Yes, send me a message about our policies, send me a message about how you disagree with a decision, don’t vote for me if you disagree with me, but it is not OK to say these things to women or to anyone,” she said.

Bennett admitted to briefly thinking of quitting based on comments, having obvious difficulty in delivering her address at times. She spoke to a room of female reporters at the Women’s Policy Office boardroom and said she requested to speak to women specifically for entirely personal reasons, adding her statement will now go out and she will be open to further interviews and questions — she just had to get her comments out once, to start.

"Today I encourage all of us to stand up to it and do not allow it," she said of cyber bullying and harassment.

While policy decisions could be a trigger for a wave of comments, the messages she found to cross the line also appeared apparently out of the blue at times.

Bennett said her family has been affected by the online harassment, but she kept her comments — and hopefully public conversation, she said — focused on her own experience as a public figure.

“None of these things that have happened or have been sent to me are comparable to those individuals who have suffered violence, and I want to be clear on that,” she said. “But I am saying, is this is how it starts, with shaming and insults and verbal abuse and I think I have a responsibility, and we collectively have a responsibility as a community, to no longer be bystanders and stand up when this happens.

“From my own perspective, I’m not going to let anyone take away my passion for doing what’s right, for fear of being attacked or verbally abused online.”

She would not say whether or not the police were following up on any of the messages.

She invited all female MHAs to join her in delivering the message and said those who were able to attend the news conference were there, acknowledging the other politicians in the room.

She called on the public to call out people who insist on posting inappropriate messages online.

afitzparick@thetelegram.com

Finance Minister Cathy Bennett speaks to reporters Monday about her own experiences with cyber bullying and online harassment.

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