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Hache campaign sign defaced
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Last Wednesday, one of Hache's signs was found with a Hitler moustache and the word 'whore' scrawled in capital letters across her forehead.
"I've heard that there's vandalism - period - of signs," said Hache. "However, when people are using the word 'whore' and other expletives like that, it's clearly a gendered term ... As far as I know, male candidates more have problems with people pushing their signs over, that sort of thing. I haven't heard of any - ever, really - any name-calling of male candidates on their signs."
Former Frame Lake MLA Charles Dent agrees.
"I've been involved in probably seven campaigns that I ran in and I think that almost all of the time the vandalism I've seen hasn't seemed to be really targeted ... You know, if there was a cluster of signs, all three or four would be knocked down ... I have to admit I've never seen anything like that written on a male candidate's sign."
Hache views the incident as one small symptom of the much larger problem of violence against women, which she calls "the number one issue" in the North.
"It's a societal indication of where women are placed and what people think of women, especially women who try to take leadership positions and have opinions about how things should be. Gendered violence is malicious. It's destructive, it's endemic, it permeates everywhere," she said.
Hache said she would try to clean off the offensive markings but cannot afford to replace the sign. She said she has not filed a complaint with Elections NWT and will not be reporting the incident to the RCMP.
"I think it's unfortunate that RCMP time has to be taken away from really critical things to protect signs," she said.
Section 296 of the Elections and Plebiscites Act states that "A person who, without authority, takes down, removes, covers up, mutilates, defaces or alters campaign material is guilty of an offence." Anyone found guilty is "liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both," according to section 323 of the act.
In 2007, Weledeh MLA candidate Carol Morin's signs were similarly defaced with moustaches, devil horns and sexual comments. Morin said she was also harassed by four men in a pick-up truck who pulled up outside her campaign office to harangue her, calling her a "pussy" and yelling, "We'll give it to you," - a crude twist on her campaign slogan," I get it."
"I'm sure these things don't happen to the male candidates," Morin said at the time.
Dent said over the years he had seen male candidates' signs defaced with "handlebar mustaches or just, you know, teeth blacked out ... typically not the sort of thing you would think was necessarily targeted." He said he had never experienced anything of the sort but pointed out he also never used a photo on a campaign sign.
Still, despite the ongoing vandalism of campaign signs of both female and male candidates, chief electoral officer David Brock said that in Election NWT's complaints-based system, grievances are seldom raised.
"Based on the information that's been provided by previous serving chief electoral officers on the types of complaints received and the investigations launched, it doesn't appear to me that this is something that has come to the attention of the chief electoral officer with incredible frequency," said Brock.
"I can't think of any investigations that have taken place into this type of offence ... I know there was nothing in 2007 and, just looking through 2003, there also was no investigation into this type of offence."
Hache, who, in her position as executive director of the Centre for Northern Families, has long listened to the woeful tales of women who access the emergency shelter, is not surprised but neither is she angry. "This is sort of like business as usual for me," she said.
"It kind of confirms that we haven't moved very far and that we need to continue the fight to persuade people that men and women need to live together in a more respectful and equal way."