As elected officials we encourage citizen participation and open dialogue to strengthen democratic participation.
But increasingly, individuals are using these opportunities to express anger—against government, against authority and against each other.
This week’s events surrounding the violent message directed at Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran cannot be ignored.
The fact that the RCMP have taken this threat seriously sends an important message to others who think there is no harm in inciting violence against others, however, as frequent an occurrence as it has become.
Indeed, the need to respond effectively grows more important by the day.
Recent events including the Brexit outcome and the U.S. election, as well as more frequent reports of spying and illegal information sharing of personal data has many alarmed that the rules and regulations governing the internet and social media platforms are not robust enough especially as we head into the next election.
Last January, Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould, joined by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, made multiple announcements regarding potential threats to Canada’s democratic process, including a new “critical election incident public protocol” group that will alert the public if it becomes aware of interference during the campaign period.
While there is no plan to call out the usual political spin on the campaign trail, threats deemed “disruptive” to a free and fair election, such as email hacking or viral videos spreading false information, will be.
The government is also taking measures to address the fact that the internet has increasingly become a tool for terrorism and violent extremism, including coordinated action to prevent social media and other online platforms from being used to incite, publish, and promote terrorism, violence, and hatred.
Last December, our government launched our National Strategy on Countering Radicalization to Violence. On May 15, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined the prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, and other government and industry leaders to adopt the Christchurch Call to Action—a global pledge to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.
The pledge aims to build more inclusive, resilient communities to counter violent radicalization, enforce laws that stop the production and dissemination of terrorist and extremist content online, and encourage media to apply ethical rules when reporting on terrorist events to avoid amplifying terrorist and violent extremist content.
Closer to home, citizens like Kelowna’s Janice Taylor are taking actions of their own. Janice initiated petition E-2133 calling for legislation that protects the data privacy and online safety of children under 13 years old.
More information can be found on the House of Commons e-petition website at ourcommons.ca.
Finally, while governments, authorities and organizations are actively working to ensure online platforms remain open and are not used to disrupt civil society, we all must demand more of ourselves.
It’s not enough to be appalled by the misinformation or mischaracterization of others that fuel the kind of comments we saw this week.
We each have a responsibility to actively reject and denounce such behaviour and demonstrate through our actions a commitment to uphold decency, fairmindedness and fact.
I encourage all of us to do our part.
Stephen Fuhr is the Liberal MP for Kelowna-Lake Country.