When the doorbell rang at Mike Farnworth’s home on Saturday, the veteran politician didn’t think twice about answering it. He’s been in provincial politics 22 years, and despite being BC’s current Minister of Public Safety, he’s never had cause to feel unsafe in his own home for doing his job.
But when his partner opened the door to his Port Coquitlam house around 1 pm, that changed.
“There’s this guy there and it was, ‘Are you Mike Farnsworth?’” Farnworth recalled, emphasizing how the man couldn’t even get his name right.
“My partner was like, ‘Do I look like Mike Farnworth?’
“‘Does Mike live here?’”
“My partner says, ‘No’ and closes the door.”
But by then though they knew it was too late.
“The guy looked like something out of Duck Dynasty,” Farnworth recalled in an interview with Daily Hive.
Outside, there were 30 protesters gathering around the Solicitor General’s house.
An SUV with a giant Canadian flag was parked outside, and an RV idled just behind it. A woman with a bullhorn was shouting obscenities. Another woman came up to the front door, put some anti-vaccine mandate literature on it and then posed for a selfie, while Farnworth and his partner looked on inside.
Their dog, a lab mix, was terrified by the noise and started whining and crying.
Farnworth phoned the Coquitlam RCMP.
By the time the Mounties arrived, the crowd had moved from the sidewalk in front of the house to the sidewalk across the street, where they continued to wave Canadian flags, yell and hector the minister and his family.
“For the next three and a half hours it was non stop verbal abuse being shouted through bullhorns and everything else,” said Farnworth.
“Things like these are the end of times, things like you are injecting things like animal parts and injecting chips into people.”
The protest is just the latest in an escalation of threats and violence against politicians due to COVID-19 public health restrictions.
Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier received a death threat in Dawson Creek after encouraging residents to get vaccinated, and his constituency office is frequently targeted with protests that shut down the street.
North Island MLA Michelle Babchuk had to phone police after 20 anti-vax protesters took over her constituency office and then showed up at her Campbell River home in December.
Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau had to relocate her constituency office in Duncan due to disruptive anti-vax protests that caused safety concerns for other tenants in the shared building.
The politicians affected are all stripes – BC Liberal, BC Green and BC NDP.
Farnworth, who is one of the longest serving MLAs in the legislature, and has been elected to the riding of Port Coquitlam seven times, said he’s never seen it so bad.
“No elected official should be subject to targeting like that,” he said.
“I think there has been a whole new level, and in part it has been exasperated and egged on by what’s going on south of the border and social media. In the last decade social media has taken off in a big way, things like Twitter.”
Not only was Farnworth’s family upset at the protest, but so were his neighbours – many of whom have children.
“This is not what they signed up for,” he said. “It makes people wary, and you’re not going to open the door.”
A live feed by the protesters posted online gave a glimpse into their motivations. The crew blamed Farnworth for being part of the BC government’s vaccine mandate, while arguing the pandemic wasn’t real, the vaccines were unnecessary and the mandate was unfair.
“You are promoting propaganda,” shouted one woman on the megaphone. “We will not be coerced into following your bunk orders.”
Coquitlam RCMP monitored the protesters, to make sure they stayed a safe distance away.
“Three police officers remained on scene to assure that the protest remained peaceful,” Const. Deanna Law said in a statement. “Those who spoke to police were cooperative and claimed they did not intend on remaining at scene for very long.”
Still, it was long enough to rattle the province’s top cop.
“I just hope it’s not a permanent fixture of political protest,” said Farnworth. “There’s plenty of places to legitimately protest, and nothing wrong with that, but you don’t do it in front of a house.
“That is not how protests are done in this country.
“There’s just no place for it. It’s just wrong.”