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B.C.'s top doctor says she's received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Summary

Dr. Bonnie Henry says death threats have been made against her and has received abusive letters


Henry says she now has security in her home


She believes part of the reason is because she's a woman in a high-profile position


VICTORIA — B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received death threats in her role as a public figure during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry took part of a panel presentation at the Union of BC Municipalities on leadership “during a time of crisis” alongside Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin and former Tsawwassen Chief Kim Baird.

During the conference, Henry shared her experience and explained she’s had to have security in her home and has been targeted with death threats, along with abusive letters and phone calls to staff.

“I’ve got a lot of very positive responses, but there are many people who don’t like what I do, or don’t like the way I say it, or don’t like my shoes … and feel quite able to send me nasty notes [and] to leave phone calls to harass my office staff,” she said.

She believes the harassment is partly due to her status as a woman in a high-profile position, and that people feel comfortable targeting her in ways they would not necessarily do to male leaders.

“I sense that people find that it’s okay to do that for a woman who’s upfront, more so than some of our male leaders, but I could be wrong,” she said.

“Maybe it is that we just don’t talk about it, and we hide it, but it is something that I think is really important if we’re going to bring up the next generation of diverse and confident leaders. We need to be able to talk about those things we need to be able to make it not okay for any of us to get that type of abuse.”


During her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Henry has become a national figure, with shoe designer John Fluevog naming a pair of shoes after her.

But Henry is not the only health expert that has been harassed.

Canada’s top doctor Dr. Theresa Tam and Dr. Anthony Fauci from the U.S. have also faced death threats and online harassment and backlash.

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NDP MLA Adrian Dix, who worked with Henry as health minister for months, took to Twitter to say she is “amazing and courageous.”

“Her intelligence is matched with compassion and generosity. Every day. I know this very well. We must all stand with her and we do,” he added.