The Governor General’s Symposium: Building a Safe and Respectful Digital World

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On April 11, 2024, Governor General Mary Simon will host a one-day symposium at Rideau Hall that will bring together individuals who experience online violence and experts from across the country to share their experiences, explore solutions, and create allyship and networks of resilience.

Participants include academics, journalists, government officials, gender equality advocates, mental health practitioners, tech industry representatives, and youth leaders from across the country.

Symposium agenda

10:00 a.m. Lighting of the Qulliq and words of welcome

10:10 a.m. Fireside discussion between the Governor General and Lisa LaFlamme.

The Governor General and renowned journalist Lisa LaFlamme will engage in a fireside discussion on the importance of bringing experts and individuals impacted by online abuse together to work on this issue, the importance of allyship, and where we need to go from here. The discussion will encourage attendees to share cross-sectoral insights and work towards collaborative solutions.

10:30 a.m. Panel 1: The Lived Experience of Online Abuse

Moderator: Emilie Nicolas

Panelists: Dr. Theresa Tam, Rachel Gilmore, Kevin Raphaël, Santee Siouxx and Fae Johnstone

1:00 p.m. Panel 2: Emerging Solutions for a Safer Digital World

Moderator: Emilie Nicolas

Panelists: Matthew Johnson, Aline Nizigama, François Savard, Anila Umar and Vanessa Brousseau

2:50 p.m. Closing remarks from the Governor General

Moderator and Panelist biographies

Emilie Nicolas
Emilie Nicolas is a columnist with Le Devoir and host of Canadaland’s podcast “Détours.” She is also a frequent media commentator, analyst, public speaker, educator and consultant on public policy, equity, human rights, international cooperation, race and gender issues. She is a regular contributor to CBC and Radio-Canada, and has been published in several journals, magazines and newspapers, both in French and English. Emilie is the recipient of a Harry Jerome Award for leadership along with a Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Person's Case.

Lisa LaFlamme, O.C.
Whether covering wars or elections, natural disasters or commemorations, Lisa LaFlamme is one of Canada’s most recognizable journalists. Over the past 30 years, notably as chief anchor and senior editor of CTV National News, she has covered a wide range of stories and major domestic and international events with clarity and fairness. A passionate supporter and promoter of humanitarian issues, she actively volunteers for Plan International, Journalists for Human Rights, and Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. An inspirational role model in news broadcasting, she mentors numerous aspiring journalists in Canada and abroad.

Dr. Theresa Tam
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada (CPHO)
Dr. Theresa Tam was named Canada’s CPHO in June 2017. As the federal government’s lead public health professional, she provides guidance to help protect the people of Canada against health threats, advance health equity and promote healthier communities, using the best available data and evidence. Dr. Tam is a pediatric infectious disease specialist with expertise in immunization, emergency preparedness and global health security. As Canada’s national public health leader, she has played an instrumental role in helping to guide Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the rollout of the largest vaccination campaign in Canadian history. She has also played a leadership role in Canada’s response to other public health emergencies, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), pandemic influenza H1N1, Ebola disease and mpox.

Rachel Gilmore
Rachel Gilmore is an Ottawa-based, award-winning journalist with extensive experience reporting on federal politics, disinformation and extremism. She spearheaded Global News’ use of TikTok as a method of news delivery, and has since channeled those skills into her own independent news content, published on social media for a collective audience of over 170 000 followers. Rachel has worked in newsrooms in Canada, Tunisia and, most recently, the United States, where she’s currently employed as an investigative reporter for the AdTech watchdog Check My Ads

Kevin Raphaël
TV host, comedian and football coach
Kevin is a TV host, radio contributor, comedian, podcaster, football coach and philanthropist. He is one of the “fantastics” behind Véronique et les Fantastiques, Quebec’s most listened-to radio show. Since fall 2017, Kevin has also been a member of the TVA Sports team, where he provides commentary on several disciplines, including basketball, WWE Raw wrestling and Canadian university football. His podcast Sans restriction is one of the hottest sports podcasts in Quebec. Another project, Les anti-pods de la lutte, is the most popular French-language wrestling podcast in Canada. Kevin also uses social networks to promote his videos and shows, and to highlight his commitment to women’s sports and to Leucan, an association for children with cancer. He is also a spokesperson for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Montérégie.

Santee Siouxx
Indigenous content creator
Santee Siouxx is an Indigenous content and video creator, fashion model, entrepreneur, jingle dress dancer, Truth and Reconciliation advocate and champion of Indigenous inclusion. She leverages social media to educate the public on the experiences, histories, knowledge, languages, successes and cultural identity of the Indigenous people of Canada in a compelling way. Santee is also the director of finance for a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to Indigenous family healing services. She follows the traditional Anishinaabe and Dakota way of life. She is originally from the Dakota Tipi First Nation in Manitoba, where her father currently serves as Hereditary Chief and is a survivor of the Birtle Manitoba Indian Residential School. Her mother is a nurse from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory in Ontario.

Fae Johnstone
Executive Director and Co-Owner, Wisdom2Action
Fae Johnstone is an award-winning 2SLGBTQIA+ advocate and small business owner. She is a social worker and a leading voice for queer and trans rights in Canada. Fae has spent over a decade campaigning for a more free, just and equal world for queer and trans people. Fae is the executive director and co-owner of Wisdom2Action, a consulting firm specializing in organizational development, community engagement and 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion. She is also the executive director of the Society of Queer Momentum, a national queer and trans advocacy organization. In March of 2023, Fae was featured in an International Women’s Day ad campaign by Hershey’s Canada alongside four other young women creating change in their communities. Fae was the grand marshal of the 2023 Capital Pride Parade in Ottawa.

Matthew Johnson
Director of Education, MediaSmarts
Matthew Johnson is the director of education for MediaSmarts, Canada’s centre for digital media literacy. He is also the author of many of MediaSmarts’ resources. Matthew serves as a member of the Canadian Pediatric Society’s Digital Health Task Force, as well as on advisory committees for the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, and the Sexual Information and Education Council of Canada.

Aline Nizigama
CEO, YWCA Canada
Aline Nizigama is CEO of YWCA Canada, the country’s oldest and largest gender equity organization. Aline is a dynamic, multilingual leader with extensive professional experience working with equity-deserving groups. Her career has instilled in her an in-depth understanding of issues affecting Francophone and multilingual communities, as well as Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities; how these complex issues intersect to produce varying degrees of inequities in the Canadian and global contexts; and how to address such challenges. She brings this perspective to YWCA Canada’s work to end gendered online hate and to build community resilience against online hate. Aline was inducted to the 2016 Wall of Role Models as part of the annual Black Canadian Awards by the Diversity Advancement Network, a celebration of success and inspirational stories of Black Canadian community builders and outstanding achievers.

François Savard
President, Virtual Guardians Foundation
A practitioner-researcher in the study of gaming, François Savard has been involved at various levels in Canada’s gaming communities since 2002. In 2015, he even gave up his career as an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces to focus full time on various e-sports projects. Over the years, he has witnessed the glaring lack of online mental health resources and the resulting consequences on a population that lives exclusively on the web. Following the implementation of a suicide prevention guide for gamers, he set up the Virtual Guardians Foundation (VGF). Created in 2018, this charitable organization has made it its mission is to be a beacon on the web for people in distress, in addition to promoting healthy and responsible digital consumption. Today, VGF’s digital outreach workers visit some of the web’s strategic locations, providing direct help focused on young people’s new realities.

Anila Umar
President and Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Newcomers (CFN)
Since joining the CFN, Anila has grown the agency by $20M, adding nationally recognized programming such as 2SLGBTQI+ refugee support and Indigenous education for newcomers. She co-chaired the Calgary COVID Care Table, where she led the civil society response to assist over 50 000 vulnerable Calgarians. Anila is the Chair of Ag Media at the Calgary Stampede, a volunteer with the Calgary Foundation, a member of the International Women’s Forum and Rotary. In 2001, Anila received the Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Person’s Case for her work advocating the rights of immigrant and minority women and children in Canada. Other accolades include the University of Calgary Alumni Award, Top 40 Under 40 designation, Women of Inspiration, Top 25 Women of Influence in Canada and Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada.

Vanessa Brousseau
Advocate, artist and content creator
Vanessa is registered as a land claim beneficiary with Sanikiluaq, Nunavut; however, her Inuk mother was born and raised in Moose Factory, Ontario. Vanessa’s father is from Mattagami First Nation. Vanessa is a family member and survivor of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, girls and two spirit. Her sister, Pamela Holopainen, has been missing for over 20 years. Vanessa has experienced abuse, neglect, racism and poverty. Vanessa is also an artist and owner of Resilient Inuk Creations, where she uses ethically sourced materials such as sealskin and porcupine quills for her art. Vanessa enjoys creating content and works every day to provide a safe space on social media under the handle ResilientInuk.

Ways to get involved

  • Follow us on X, Facebook, and/or Instagram.
  • Share our social media posts or start a conversation using our social media hashtag #WeDeserveBetter, and don’t forget to tag us!

Join the #WeDeserveBetter Campaign

Online abuse is particularly prevalent on social media platforms. To combat this issue head-on, we’re launching the #WeDeserveBetter campaign. This hashtag serves as a response to online toxicity, and offers a platform for sharing experiences, resources and solidarity. Our goal is to raise awareness, build community and cultivate positive online interactions.

How to Participate:

  1. Share Your Story: Use #WeDeserveBetter to share your experiences with online abuse and raise awareness.
  2. Engage Respectfully: Use #WeDeserveBetter as a respectful way to respond to negative comments.
  3. Share Resources and Facts: Use #WeDeserveBetter to share useful resources and educational content.
  4. Spread the Word: Encourage others to join the campaign by using #WeDeserveBetter in their posts.

Together, let's create a safer and more respectful online environment. Join us in saying #WeDeserveBetter.