News release

OTTAWA, February 9, 2021

As these past months have shown, media literacy and critical thinking are crucial tools that all Canadians—and especially vulnerable communities—need to combat online disinformation and related harms.

As we continue to face all sorts of disinformation, including that related to COVID-19, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage, and the Honourable Dominic Leblanc, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, wish to inform Canadians about the organizations benefiting from federal support from the Digital Citizen Contribution Program. Today, Minister Guilbeault met with Concordia University – Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights and the organization ISOC-Québec in order to highlight their important work in supporting efforts to counter online disinformation and other online harms and threats to Canada’s democracy.  

Similar to how COVID-19 disinformation can result in online and offline racism and stigmatization, disinformation and online harms targeting women can lead to gender-targeted hate speech and violence. Concordia University’s Canadian Women Leaders’ Digital Defence Initiative is working to better understand how digital disinformation and online harms that target Canadian women have an impact on Canada’s democracy and social cohesion.

ISOC-Québec has undertaken the Diversity, Visibility and Discoverability (DVD) project to study and understand the causes and effects linked to the Canadian public’s lack of exposure of to diverse online content.

Since January 2020, Canadian Heritage’s Digital Citizen Contribution Program has provided $7.2 million in funding support to third-party organizations undertaking research or citizen-focused activities, such as public awareness tools and online workshops, to help Canadians become more resilient and think critically about the information they consume online. These projects reach Canadians on a national and local scale, online and offline, in minority communities, in both official languages and in Indigenous communities. This fiscal year, $4.3 million was dedicated specifically to counter COVID-19 disinformation, misleading information, and the racism and stigmatization that are often the result.

Learn more about all the projects funded in the attached list.

Quotes

“We have a responsibility to protect Canadians by providing them with the tools to identify and prevent online disinformation and the harms it can create. By raising awareness of these great media literacy research and educational tools that are available to Canadians, we can help educators, young people, parents and seniors of all backgrounds, and especially vulnerable people, build their resilience in the face of harmful and misleading online content.”

—The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage

“The best line of defense against online disinformation is an engaged and informed public. Our government is committed to ensuring Canadians can access the resources they need to understand how disinformation can affect trust between people and their democratic institutions. Together, we can protect our democracy by learning to build transparent, healthy and factual environments.”

—The Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Quick facts

  • Today Minister Guilbeault also met virtually with his counterparts from Australia, France, Germany and Finland to discuss the importance of international collaboration to promote a diverse online information ecosystem.
  • When it officially launched in 2019, the overarching Digital Citizen Initiative contributed $7 million to more than 20 projects that encouraged critical thinking about online disinformation and involvement in the democratic process. To date, these projects have reached more than 12 million Canadians.
  • The Digital Citizen Initiative is one of many projects in place to build citizen resilience and protect democracy in Canada. The Government of Canada is tackling online disinformation through additional initiatives like the Paris Call, and developing safeguards like the Critical Election Incident Public Protocol to further defend our democratic institutions.
  • The Digital Citizen Initiative and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), through the Joint Initiative for Digital Citizen Research, provide funding support through arm’s-length SSHRC Connection Grants, supplements to recipients of SSHRC Insight Grants, SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowships and SSHRC Doctoral Awards.
  • Through a $2.5-million agreement over four years, the Digital Citizen Initiative is also supporting the Public Policy Forum’s Digital Democracy Project, which brings together academics, civil society and policy professionals to support research and policy development on disinformation and online harms. The Digital Citizen Initiative is also supporting MediaSmarts’ Media Literacy Week with a $225,000 agreement over three years.

Contacts

For more information (media only), please contact:

Camille Gagné-Raynauld
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage
819-997-7788
camille.gagne@canada.ca

Media Relations
Canadian Heritage
819-994-9101
1-866-569-6155
pch.media-media.pch@canada.ca

Corinne Havard
Press Secretary and Senior Communications Advisor
Office of the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
343-551-9740

Media RelationsPrivy Council Office
613-957-5420