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Misinformation and Disinformation: Agents of Abuse

Statement from the Public Health Association of BC (PHABC) and Prevention of Violence Canada (POVC)

This statement concerns the level of rage directed at the female Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland, in her service to the Canadian Public. The verbal assault was both threatening and demeaning. While the assault needs to be addressed at the individual level, PHABC and POVC acknowledge there is also collective and systemic responsibility towards this violence.

Political interests fed by misinformation and disinformation fueled, and continue to fuel, oppositional outrage. This outrage serves to foment polarized and divisive discourse in Canada. At the root of this is a threat to our democracy, social order and social cohesion. We have witnessed and experienced the spread of false narratives designed to inflame citizens to disrupt society through civil disobedience. These narratives include, but are not limited to, financial misconduct, environmental legislation and vaccine safety.

Misinformation and disinformation are created to bolster distrust and weaken confidence in public institutions and their leadership. This leads to the destruction of social capital and weakens community relationships. As a peaceful nation that respects the rule of law, we have an obligation to call out threats of violence, abusive language and menacing behaviour. Leaders who incite such behaviour must be held accountable.

We call on all political parties and leaders to condemn the vilification of our Deputy Prime Minister, and all governments to develop equitable and critical responses to online misinformation and disinformation. Investments in upstream prevention will further maximize public health measures that will serve to protect and enhance the livelihoods of all Canadians. We must recognize and treat this as a serious threat to our peaceful coexistence, and take cohesive actions that unite our country.

POVC is deeply saddened by the tragic events in Nova Scotia. Our hearts go out to families and loved ones reeling from this senseless violence & loss of life. We’d like to thank first responders & we send all of our love and support to them and all the people of Nova Scotia. #NovaScotiaStrong