“Die! B—-ch! Die!” was not what this Vernon city councillor expected to read after opening the pretty red envelope mailed to her parents’ address before the Christmas holidays.
Coun. Dalvir Nahal said the threatening, handcrafted card she received in November left her feeling anxious, afraid and now, three months later, angry.
“It’s not a secret that I’m battling cancer,” Nahal said. “Is this person just being mean, saying ‘die’ because of my cancer, or is it because I’m on council?”
Nahal said the time spent in hand-making the card is indication the issue is deep rooted.
After opening the card that was delivered to her parents’ home address, Nahal said she thought it was a one-off, shrugged it off, and started preparing dinner. But she kept thinking about it. She reached out to her colleague councillors to see if they had received any unusual mail. It was then a colleague told her to file a report with police.
In discussions with the officer, Nahal was asked if she had “pissed anyone off intentionally.”
“I’m not someone to pick fights,” she said.
Nahal said she’s developed thick skin over the years, but she was worried that the card was sent to her family’s home.
“That’s what really scares me,” she said. “My parents are elderly, my dad is battling cancer and if this person thinks I live there… you never know what someone’s mindset is.”
The Vernon councillor wasn’t keen on making this incident public as she didn’t want to give the person behind the card the satisfaction of a reaction, but once it came out in conversation and was picked up by local media, she said she’s been more open to talk about it.
“Only a handful of people knew about it when it happened,” she said, noting most of her fellow councillors weren’t aware of the situation.
Nahal said she’s no stranger to verbal abuse. It’s something she sees on a regular basis in her daytime job at Service BC.
“I just take the approach that they’re not mad at me, they’re mad at the situation.”
But a card mailed by an anonymous person is different.
“This is something we wouldn’t tolerate from our loved ones, why would you tolerate this from strangers?”
In the wake of Nahal sharing her accounts, Coun. Scott Anderson admitted he too had received death threats last year.
“I told the police and that was the end of it,” Anderson wrote on the Vernon and Area Community Forum he founded on Facebook.
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran was also on the receiving end of death threats in May 2019. A 52-year-old man was arrested after the online post called for the mayor to be shot.
The City of Armstrong announced Feb. 24 it will work in collaboration with the Municipal Insurance Association of BC to create a program to equip its city staff with tools to create a safe work environment to mitigate the increased risk of abuse, threats and attacks they’re fielding from the general public.
“We (as politicians) take enough abuse via phone calls, via emails, but now we have to worry about our safety as well is ridiculous,” Nahal said.
She said she isn’t feeling afraid about the incident anymore, but instead is acting more cautiously.
It has also made her take a closer look at language being used online and under the cloak of anonymity.
Comments on social media in response to Nahal’s story were primarily showing support, but some she said were trying to justify the death threat.
“It goes to show how immune we’ve become to this in our society,” Nahal said.
“Adults are behaving like children… we should hold ourselves to a higher standard.”