The dangerous politics of intimidation and threats in Canada – Car and home vandals aim at Toronto Liberal supporters

Brake lines cut, cars damaged at homes. Toronto police patrolled a midtown area overnight, after vandals cut brake lines on at least 10 cars parked at homes with Liberal election signs on their lawns.

“We’re investigating. Officers are paying special attention to the designated area and we take this very seriously,” Staff-Sgt. Shawn Meloche, from 53 Division, said last night. “This is a danger to life as well as to property. Regardless of the motivation – and there appears to be a connection (to the signs) – this is a public safety issue.”

Affected residents live in the riding of St. Paul’s, in a swath of the city around Eglinton Ave. between Bathurst St. and Mount Pleasant Rd., and had Carolyn Bennett signs on their property. Although Meloche confirmed 10 cases of vandalism last night, Liberal riding headquarters said the number was going up, reporting 14 by 9 p.m.

The cars were also damaged in other ways; some were scratched and keyed with L signs. Phone and cable lines of some homes were cut.

“There are two child seats in the back of my car,” said Andrew Lane, chief financial officer for Bennett’s campaign. “To cut the brake line on a car like that is just evil. Awful.”

Added Lane, whose children are 6 months and 22 months: “You have to crawl under someone’s car and cut the brake line, knowing that it could kill someone, or their whole family.”

Lane discovered his brakes didn’t work on his silver Saturn View as he tried to pull up at a stop sign near his home yesterday. He kept slamming the brakes and, in a “moment of terror,” narrowly avoided slamming into a bus.

Later, the garage called to tell him it had been no accident. When Lane expressed disbelief, the mechanic told him: “Look, this is a big, heavy rubber hose and it’s been cut through with a very sharp knife. You should phone the police.”

Police later said Lane was not alone and asked if he had an election sign, telling him, “The Carolyn Bennett sign seems to be the one thing linking events.”

“I’m just sick to my stomach about this,” a shaken Bennett told the Toronto Star last night. She spent the day visiting the vandals’ victims. “It is so upsetting. I’ve spent my life encouraging people to get involved in the democratic process and now it would appear they are targeted for doing so.”

Brent Johnston, former chief fundraiser for the provincial Liberals, was backing his Volkswagen Golf slowly out of his driveway when alarms went off. He then discovered brake fluid in his driveway. When he called Volkswagen, they told him he wasn’t the first to call, and to check his car for damage.

He, too, has two young children and shudders to think what might have happened if he had driven the car with a cut brake line.

“This isn’t about party politics. Putting people’s lives at risk is a whole different thing,” said Johnston. “We’re not taking the sign down. We won’t be intimidated. But I am really disappointed this is happening in Canada. It’s beyond comprehension.”

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