Police are looking into allegations of harassment made by a city council candidate against four individuals, including a fellow candidate in the same ward.
Erin Caton, who is running in Ward 1, registered a complaint with Guelph police on Friday in relation to a series of online postings and other activities she believes constitute harassment and considers threatening in nature.
In her complaint to police, Caton points to online posts that refer to her as “mentally ill” and “disparaging me using ableist terms,” with another threatening to “unleash trolls."
In her complaint to police, Caton draws connections between language used in the various posts and wording Thai Mac has used in the past and points to an online statement of his which is aimed at her.
None of the allegations have been proven and Mac himself says he has also been the victim of harassment.
“I have not heard about that … and Guelph police have not contacted me,” Mac said via email Monday morning in response to the police complaint, adding that he believes the harassment and attacks against him will be "ramped-up" as the campaign progresses.
“Some of these candidates may be better off running a positive campaign instead of trying to cut others down,” Mac said.
Guelph police spokesperson Scott Tracey said via email the service doesn’t comment on investigations, “including to confirm whether or not one is underway,” adding, “for privacy and investigative reasons we do not comment until an investigation is complete and charges are laid, if that occurs.”
In her complaint to police, Caton, who identities as non-binary, accuses Mac of “spearheading” the efforts against her. She provided police and GuelphToday with screenshots of the various comments, none of which are attributed to Mac.
Several of the online comments featured in Caton’s complaint relate to a 2016 blog post she made following the stillborn death of her late-term child being carried by a surrogate mother. That post included photos of family with the child.
“People find strength in telling their stories. I actually ended up meeting a whole bunch of people that way who also had (experienced) child loss,” Caton said of the blog posts. “It was very helpful to meet other people to talk to about it.”
“Many are offended by previous homophobic posts of another candidate. I am offended by this,” one commenter said, referring to the photos of the stillborn child. “... who made you the authority of what is allowed to be called offensive or not?
“If she is capable of starting American style smear campaigns, she is not without flaws and history.”
“It’s just like re-living the grief,” Caton said of seeing the posts related to her deceased child. “I expected, as a political candidate, for there to be people making comments about me and my policies and things like that. I’m not upset about people posting things about me online because I’m 45, I’ve been online for a really long time and that’s what the ‘block’ button is for – trolls are going to troll.
“I was just more upset about my daughter. It was like a reminder of the pain.”
Part of Caton's harassment complaint centres around a comment on the Facebook group Guelph Queer Happenings.
“You people honestly make me sick to my stomach, your all a bunch of misfit losers that have nothing better to do than dig up crap from the past, a bunch of entitled snowflakes trying to ruin someone’s life. You push your stupid pathetic views on people, then you wonder why you are hated so much by everyone. Get the fk out of OUR city.”
An administrator for Guelph Queer Happenings confirmed the existence of the above post, noting it was deleted and the individual who posted it was blocked from the page.
Mac has been in hot water throughout the past month after complaints were raised regarding offensive comments he made on social media in the past. At one point he withdrew from the election, but has since rejoined.
Mac has since publicly apologized for his previous comments.
Caton denies her team was involved in bringing those past comments to light, noting they came up through comment threads on Reddit, Facebook and Twitter she wasn't part of, though she acknowledges knowing three of the “at least 50” people sharing screenshots of Mac’s past comments.
In addition to her allegations of harassment, Canton notes several of her campaign signs have been damaged or stolen.
Mac says his family has received a variety of racist comments and threats since he launched his campaign in May, something he said increased after concern about some of his past online comments came to light earlier this month.
Mac was asked to send GuelphToday materials that support his claims.
“I won’t be able to do that,” he said. “I’m going to send that to the RCMP. Anything that I will be sending to the police and RCMP I would prefer not to send to anyone else just in case it compromises stuff.”
In a post announcing his return to the campaign trail, Mac accused people associated with “a Guelph Ward 2 resident who is running for Ward 1 councillor” – Caton is the only candidate who meets that description – with launching a social media campaign against him.