LETHBRIDGE - "I've heard from three different little towns already saying they have the same issues. Thank you, thank you for standing forward."
Claresholm Town Councillor Donna Courage says last Saturday night, while her husband was out of town, her friends came over to check on her and to have coffee. About 15 minutes after they left, her doorbell rang.
"I assumed it was them coming back for something that they might have forgotten. I started to open the doors and I leaned in through the little windows and realized it wasn't them.
"So, I tried to push it closed, and instantly they smashed it in and it hit my face. He pushed me up against the wall, and said 'keep quiet. Leave town.' And then just ran out."
Courage says the man in question was wearing a black jacket and a toque and she was able to see at lease part of his face. She describes him as around 35-40, with a rounder face, no beard or moustache. She couldn't tell whether he had hair, or what colour it may have been. It wasn't a voice, or anyone that she recognized.
"There were four little words in about 20 seconds," she says. “It was too shocking and swift. I just dropped to the ground and didn't know what to do."
There haven't been any recent warnings of break and enters, and she's not sure if anyone may have seen the suspect in the alleged attack. After the incident occurred, she went to her neighbour's home for help, and that's when the RCMP were called.
Courage says tensions in the community have been rising since she started running for a position on Town Council - on a platform of government transparency and accountability.
"I am very vocal...I am the conscience of the people of Claresholm and I need to make sure that they have opportunities. They don't always have to go in one direction."
What Courage is referring to, is a decision for the town to spend $5 million on converting an old school building, which needs asbestos remediation, into a new town office.
"I've been really pushing and being vocal about them doing an environmental study on it, before they just go ahead and start renovating it. And it's just been a sore spot for very, very many people.
"I'm not against the school. If we can do an environmental study on it and it works out, great. And if it doesn't we have other buildings we can use. There's other opportunities. Just because you're pointed in one direction, doesn't mean you have to go that way."
There was even a group she says, that dedicated what she calls a “hate page” on Facebook to her, warning her to conform or leave town. She says a list of those people on that page has been given to RCMP, who are now investigating. The page itself has now been deleted.
And after some consideration, she will not resign her council seat.
"When this first happened, I was scared, and I didn't know what to do," she explains. “Then I though, I have to go public with this. Because if this is happening to me, in our little town, it’s obviously happening in other places. I need to come forward, and I need to tell everybody what happened."
Since she came forward, Courage has received messages of encouragement from coast to coast.
"I've had people say, 'stay strong, stay straight. We need your voice.' With that kind of love that's coming to me knowing that I'm doing the right thing, I'm staying on."
She says if someone doesn't start standing up to bullies and intimidation tactics, then how will others know when it happens?
"We all have a voice, whether you're a politician, a woman or a man or anything. There's no reason for this kind of thing [to occur]."
(Lethbridge News Now)
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