Gerry Rogers thrown out of House

Facebook group threats create controversy

James McLeod jmcleod@thetelegram.com
Published on April 17, 2013
Gerry Rogers

NDP MHA Gerry Rogers was thrown out of the House of Assembly Tuesday after she refused to apologize for being a member of  a Facebook group.

The group in question — “Kathy Dunderdale must GO!!!” — has been a centre for anti-government senti-ment in recent weeks, and some users have posted violent messages, including threats on Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s life.

But Rogers said she didn’t know anything about the group until early Tuesday afternoon, when Government House Leader Darin King raised a point of privilege and called her out.

Rogers said she had been added to the group by somebody she did not know — which is possible on Facebook.

“I do not condone violence in any way, shape or form,” she told reporters just after she was forced out of the House by Speaker Ross Wiseman, who held her in contempt of the legislature.

“I did not have contempt of the House. I did not freely and knowingly participate in any way, shape or form in actions against the premier,” Rogers said.

Dunderdale wasn’t buying that.

“If somebody is associating you with something you don’t want to be a part of, you deal with that right away,” Dunderdale said.

“I can’t imagine under what circumstance I would associate with a group of people who would suggest in any kind of a way that somebody would put a bullet through Lorraine Michael.”

The premier said that since the March 26 provincial budget, which implemented sweeping program cuts and layoffs, she has been getting threats, and twice she’s been accosted by angry public-sector workers.

“I’m at a point where I have to be careful about my own safety — where I go and what I expose myself to,” Dunderdale said. “I’d face the devil, but I need to be very careful about what I do with my grandchildren these days.

“You know, when somebody is threatening to blow up my house, and the RNC are taking it seriously enough that this is being investigated, then I have to understand when my children say that perhaps we can’t have sleepovers.”

The day in the House of Assembly started as usual at 1:30 p.m., but almost immediately it changed when King raised the point of privilege.

King pointed to comments on the Facebook group — which have since been deleted — where somebody identified as Adam Maher wrote, “i can’t believe no body jfk’d her already n sniped her out.”

King called the language “vile and contemptible” and asked Wiseman to throw Rogers out of the House for being associated with the group.

In his argument, King drew parallels between the comments on the Facebook group and the twin bombings that took place at the Boston Marathon Monday, killing at least three people and wounding more than 100.

Proceedings in the House ground to a halt for the rest of the afternoon while Wiseman considered the matter.

By the time things got back on track and question period wrapped up after 5 p.m., regular House proceedings lasted for fewer than 13 minutes before they wrapped up for the day.

In his ruling, Wiseman said Rogers had not committed a breach of privilege, but he held her in contempt, which is a less specific censure.

Wiseman ordered her to apologize, but Rogers refused to do so, saying she hadn’t done anything.

“I cannot apologize for something I did not do,” Rogers said before Wiseman ordered that she be ejected from the House.

Immediately after she was forced to leave, Rogers said the whole thing represents a chill for people engaged in political discourse.

Rogers said by painting everyone subscribed to the group with the same brush, Dunderdale was,  “Trying to attack the right to free speech and to gather, whether it is on social media or physically.”

Rogers said she will return to the House of Assembly today.

 

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

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