Defiant in the face of online harassment, a Red Deer MLA isn’t letting someone else speak for her.
Fake Twitter and Facebook accounts were created in September in Red Deer South MLA Barb Miller’s name.
“I was horrified,” said Miller. “You’re shocked someone would do something like that. You wonder who did it, but the first thing you think when you see the comments ‘is my family safe?’”
Posts on the Facebook page ran counter to Miller’s political positions, others she described as “bad.”
Several strangers messaged Miller on through her personal Facebook page, telling her there was an obvious fake account. A friend then sent her a link to the account.
Of her experience as an MLA for almost 18 months, she felt this incident was uncalled for.
“You can’t let them win,” said Miller. “You have to get up and, just like I did the day I found out about it, you have to get up Saturday morning, Sunday morning and do my work. You can’t let it scare you away, because that’s what they want.
“I was elected by the people of Red Deer to be their voice. I’m not going to let a few keyboard warriors scare me away from what I was elected to do.”
Mary Anne Jablonski, Red Deer North MLA from 2000 to 2015, said all MLAs face criticism especially in difficult times, noting the importance of having a “thick skin.”
“I faced criticism, but I rarely felt it was because I was female,” said Jablonski.
Jablonski said harassment and intimidation happened, but it was in subtle ways.
“I think it happens to a lot of people and not just because you’re female,” said Jablonski. “It only fired me up and inspired me to get the job done right.
“When things aren’t going well, people will be less subtle.”
But what Miller experienced was far from subtle.
Miller made a plea for those who do this sort of online bullying to think about the innocent people affected by it.
“The husbands, partners, kids, grandkids. They’re all innocent in this,” said Miller. “I can expect this because this is the way politics is.
“It’s not going to scare me away.”
The accounts have since been shut down.