By Jonathon Van Maren
On November 15, 2017, at the corner of Dundas and Wilson in the City of Woodstock, a woman aggressively approached individuals peacefully sharing a pro-life message. Volunteer Craig Van Manen described her as “yelling at me to give her my sign” after which “she proceeded to slap eggs against it.”
In the presence of at least one witness, Van Manen states, she “then grabbed my sign and jostled with me for a moment over it before letting go. I held my ground calmly and firmly. I tried to start a conversation with her to no avail. She walked back to her car yelling that she would bring the matter to the mayor. As Wilma, a fellow member of Oxford Against Abortion, legally crossed the street to film the incident on her phone, the woman stepped around the corner again (coming back from her car) to throw an egg at us and missed.”
This woman’s name is Kate Leatherbarrow, and she is now running for Woodstock City Council. The day after the incident, she posted on Facebook that when she saw the individuals sharing their message “something in me broke and I have taken action.” She failed to mention that the “action(s)” she took would be properly categorized under criminal law as assault, assault with a weapon, and attempted theft. The incident was reported to police, who stated that they planned to warn Ms. Leatherbarrow in relation to the incident.
Ms. Leatherbarrow had choices. She could have instead engaged in civil debate or decided to also peacefully share her views on the public street. Instead, she premeditatively and intentionally committed physical violence against those who hold and share a different view from her own.
With the rising rates of violence against those who share a pro-life message in Canada, a person who has previously assaulted individuals just because she disagrees with their message is not a viable political candidate. Instead, those who fill political office should respect fundamental freedoms and support the right to civil debate. This is foundational to work as a public servant. In order for a public servant to be fit for office, they should be capable of responding reasonably to those with whom they disagree, and they should have the temperament that restrains them from criminal acts motivated by their opinion. Voters should reject Ms. Leatherbarrow on October 22.