As online hate rises, Gov. Gen. Mary Simon wants Canadians to be nicer on the web

From public figures to your average Canadian, anyone can be a target when it comes to hateful online comments.

That includes Canada’s governor general, Mary Simon, who has made it her mission to help foster more civility online.

In an exclusive interview with Global News on Tuesday, Simon said the country needs to show more respect online — and says a lack of it has affected her personally.

“That was something that I went through. And then my family was affected and it has a toll on you, both in terms [of] your emotional well-being and your mental health,” Simon told Global News’ Nathaniel Dove in Toronto.

In February 2023, Simon’s office said it would be disabling comments on her social media platforms because of the abusive, misogynistic and racist comments, including violent threats.

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It came as the rate of police-reported hate crimes, which is when a person is targeted for their identity, has risen 77 per cent between 2019 and 2022, according to Statistics Canada.

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And cyber hate crimes, which include harassment, rose 138 per cent from 2018 to 2022, which is the most recent year for which data is available.

Simon says online abuse is also forcing women who might want to go into public life to reconsider.

“They start to worry about their families and at some point they will say, ‘I am not doing this anymore,’” she said.

“We need to make sure that women that are very capable and can provide the kind of balance we need in our politics can still continue to be there.”

Citing a recent conference she convened on the matter, Simon proposed several possible solutions.

Mentoring other people and being an ally is one, while more mental health supports can also help.

She also urged a return to what she called the traditional Canadian value of respect.

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