Hon. Andrew Cardozo: Let me add my congratulations to you, Senator Greenwood.
Honourable senators, I want to encourage us to think about how we interact on social media in relation to the work we do as senators. It is clear to most that social media is an increasingly dominant medium for politics, government and society at large. It is also clear that social media can be used as a force for good and constructive communications just as it can be used to spread misinformation, disinformation and even stir up rage and violence.
How politicians the world over use or misuse social media has been a growing challenge, one that requires more attention from all politicians and parliamentarians. I believe that we here in the Senate can be a point of leadership on this issue, by having discussions and finding solutions — even if they are partial solutions — that can be of benefit to senators and indeed members of all legislatures and municipal councils across Canada. A good starting point is the Senate Harassment and Violence Prevention Policy.
We need to find a way to have informed and vigorous debate on public policy issues without such social media interaction turning into a forum of hate and bullying. If I can paraphrase the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we must be able to disagree without being disagreeable or worse.
We cannot just do things the way we’ve always done them. Because I have been threatened or bullied on social media in the past is not an excuse for me to oppose measures that would help others in the future. We cannot continue to normalize this kind of behaviour. A recent Angus Reid poll found that three quarters of Canadians feel that there is no real debate in Parliament about the issues. Those who believe our debates are disrespectful number 37%, and 35% believe they are uninformative. We can do better.
We must also strongly insist that defending free speech does not mean defending hate or violent speech. Canadian laws are clear on the difference. With the rapid growth of social media and now artificial intelligence, we are at a turning point where we urgently need new discussions and solutions.
There are many options for what we can do. One is to develop a voluntary code of respect and another is to find ways to have regular dialogue and discuss the issues of restraint and thoughtful debate in this chamber.
The bottom line, colleagues, is that — if I can use a couple of well-worn cliches — enough is enough. We have to do something, and I welcome a discussion of what we can do.