Death threats. Racist taunts. Vows of violence. Inside the increasingly personal attacks targeting Canadian female journalists, there’s been a marked increase in the recent past.
When the attacks first started in 2013, they seemed to come from all corners of the internet. But after news organizations in Montreal and Toronto discovered that the targets had been journalists, they started to identify the culprits among their own ranks.
In February, the Toronto Star decided to take action and, to its own surprise, discovered that the anonymous poster whose harassment of two female reporters in 2012 had been exposed had a name: David Menard.
In a telephone conversation with Yahoo News, Menard, an associate professor at Université de Montréal who now lives and works in Montreal, said it was not his intention to cause further harm, but he knew that, since he had begun harassing a female reporter two years earlier, he had reached a tipping point.
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When the Toronto Star began investigating the harassment of two women journalists in 2012, Menard took it as his personal mission to target female reporters – with the goal of “destroying” their reputations. The two journalists he was harassing told Yahoo News that they had been trying to get their stories out, writing in their Twitter and Facebook timelines and posting on their blogs, but he had made their work impossible and their personal lives difficult.
One of the women, who spoke to Yahoo News on condition of anonymity, described the harassment and intimidation she suffered after reporting on the death of an innocent man with cerebral palsy.
“I had to defend myself against his harassing behaviour on multiple fronts, one of which was public, and I’m not sure I’ll ever overcome the fear that I will be targeted with this,” she said.
A second female reporter told Yahoo News that she had felt her career and personal life were being destroyed. “I’ve never experienced harassment like this in Canada. It took my breath away, literally. It was like stepping into a black hole,” she said, citing a personal experience as an example.
The Toronto Star identified its own harasser and reported his harassment to the police. The police confirmed his harassment and asked the news organization to remove a tweet about his harassment and apologize. The incident prompted the Toronto Star’s board of directors to take a formal