Source: Facebook

Rideau Hall is facing criticism for being too partisan after hosting a panel on “online harms.”

Governor General Mary Simon hosted a symposium on the very topic the Liberals are trying to regulate through their controversial Bill C-63, dubbed the Online Harms Act. 

The bill contains fines of up to $70,000 for online speech and life imprisonment for hate crimes. 

In a post to X, the Governor General said that “everyone plays a part in shaping a positive digital world.”

Blacklock’s Reporter publisher Holly Doan reported that no critics of Bill C-63 were invited to the conference. 

Guests that were invited, however, included ex-CTV host Lisa LaFlamme, TikTok commentator Rachel Gilmore, transgender activist Fae Johnstone, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board trustee Nili Kaplan-Myrth, and Canada’s top public health official, Theresa Tam.

The Governor General’s office told True North that the symposium “aimed to shine a light on the rise of toxic online discourse.” The office added that “a diverse range of individuals and organizations with experience and expertise in dealing with online abuse were represented at the symposium.”

Justice Minister Arif Virani was also in attendance, and used the forum as an opportunity to promote Bill C-63.

“With industry experts at the Governor General’s Symposium, we discussed this and our Online Harms Act to create a safe experience for everyone,” he wrote. 

Rideau Hall denied that the event was partisan in nature.

“The Online Harms Act was not on the Agenda or part of the panel discussions,” said Simon’s office.

The Governor General thanked everyone who attended in a post to X.

“I extend my deepest gratitude to everyone who participated in last week’s symposium. Your stories are a powerful reminder of the urgent need for more conversations on the critical issue of toxic online commentary,” she wrote.

The Governor General’s constitutional duty is to remain non-partisan and apolitical.

She failed to do so, according to many sentiments and replies online.

“We need a public investigation into how you got the GG to hold a… partisan tea party to support your hideously unconstitutional censorship legislation. I really didn’t think you could be worse than your predecessor as justice minister, but you’ve proven me wrong,” said Jonathan Kay, writer and editor for the Quillette, in response to Virani.

The blame doesn’t fall solely on the Governor General, according to professor and esteemed researcher Philippe Lagassé, who said her office should have stepped in to stop this.

“GGs can champion causes. They can raise awareness and convene. It doesn’t need to be all medals and ribbon cutting. But basic questions can and should be asked: Is this issue currently a matter of partisan debate? Could my office’s involvement be leveraged by a party?” wrote Lagassé.

In an article published by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Lagassé noted that Simon should have realized that the symposium was no longer appropriate after C-63 was tabled. Lagassé added that any doubts about the impartiality of a Governor General undermine trust when it’s needed most.

The Governor General has recently started a “We Deserve Better” campaign, highlighting the issues around online abuse and harassment, hoping to raise awareness and empower people to stand up against online harms.

Lagassé said that Simon’s first step to maintaining impartiality should be to abandon the campaign.

The Online Harms Act passed its first reading in the House of Commons Feb. 26, 2024. It is currently at its second reading. 

True North reached out to the Governor General’s office but received no response.