A strong democracy relies on Canadians having access to diverse and reliable sources of news and information so that they can form opinions, hold governments and individuals to account, and participate in public conversations.
The Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of Democratic Institutions, today announced several citizen-focused activities that will build citizens’ critical thinking and preparedness against online disinformation, and other online harms. She made this announcement on behalf of the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism. This announcement is part of the Government of Canada’s plan to safeguard our democratic processes from threats of interference as we approach the 2019 General Election.
On January 30, Minister Gould announced funding of $7 million for citizen-focused activities under Canadian Heritage’s Digital Citizen Initiative to support eligible organizations using four existing programs: the Canada History Fund, Youth Take Charge, Exchanges Canada and the Canada Periodical Fund. The Initiative promotes civic, news and digital media literacy through third-party educational activities and programming to help citizens become resilient against online harms.
Activities range from awareness sessions and workshops to the development of learning materials from experienced and expert organizations who work with Canadians of all ages and backgrounds, in both official languages, to foster digital media and civic awareness across the country.
Investing in these projects will help Canadians critically assess online information; understand how algorithms work and when they might impact a user’s online experience; recognize how and when malicious actors exploit online platforms; acquire skills to avoid being susceptible to online manipulation; and effectively engage in public debate and online discussions.
Strengthening Canadians’ resilience to online disinformation
Canadian Heritage will also invest $19.4 million over four years in a new Digital Citizen Research Program to help Canadians understand online disinformation and its impact on Canadian society, and to build the evidence base that will be used to identify possible actions and future policy-making in this space. This investment will also enable Canada to take part in international multi-stakeholder engagement aimed at building consensus and developing guiding principles on diversity of content online to strengthen citizen resilience to online disinformation.
“Access to accurate, diverse and relevant news is crucial to our democracy. In response to the increase in disinformation published online and through social media, our government has made it a priority to help equip citizens with the tools and skills needed to critically assess online information.”
-The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism
“Canada’s best defence against threats to democracy remains an engaged and informed public. By building their skills, Canadians can better understand online deceptive practices, recognize disinformation and be less susceptible to online manipulation. An informed and critical approach to online information by all Canadians will help safeguard our upcoming elections from those who would seek to interfere in our democracy.”
-The Honourable Karina Gould, Minister Democratic Institutions
The Canada History Fund encourages Canadians to improve their knowledge about Canada’s history, civics and public policy
The Collective Initiatives component of the Canada Periodical Fund provides funding to organizations for projects designed to increase the overall sustainability of the Canadian print magazine and non-daily newspaper industries.
Youth Take Charge supports youth-led projects for youth, ages 7 to 30, that exemplify the ability to strengthen youth attachment to Canada through engagement.
The Exchanges Canada Program helps youth enhance their knowledge and understanding of Canada, while connecting with other young Canadians
As proposed in Budget 2019, the Government of Canada will also invest $19.4 million (starting in 2019-2020) to expand Canadian Heritage’s Digital Citizen Initiative to create a new research program that will support stronger evidence-based policy making in the countering of disinformation and other online harms in a Canadian context. Research will be implemented through three main activities:
a new Digital Citizen Contribution Program
a joint initiative with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)
support to the Public Policy Forum’s Digital Democracy Project
The new program will also support multi-stakeholder engagement and digital media literacy.