Message from the Governor General on the occasion of International Women’s Day

March 8, 2023

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, we celebrate the contributions of women and girls. We have made so many advancements in representation, and so many women are shaping and changing our world for the better. But we must also recognize the ongoing and unnecessary challenges still faced by women and girls. The reality is that women—particularly those in leadership positions, high‑profile women, Indigenous women and girls, women from ethnic minorities, and 2SLGBTQI+ individuals—are threatened every day online and on social media, and in their daily lives as well.

They are subjected to targeted misinformation campaigns and different levels of scrutiny than men in the same positions. Their substantive professional contributions are more likely to be undervalued. Countless reports have confirmed that women not only face more online abuse than their male counterparts, but that the severity of these interactions are markedly worse. And this is not limited to Canada.

Around the world, we are seeing more and more stories of women who have indicated that their public service is coming at the cost of their mental health, which also affects physical health. But we are also seeing women who are speaking up. Who are saying enough is enough.

Many detractors will say that women should just learn to have a thicker skin, to take a joke. If they can’t take it, stay out of the line of fire. Others will say online abuse is part of the role of a public figure, even though the equivalent spoken words would be condemned. Or that women hide behind their gender and race when confronted with criticism. To those who propose this, I must respectfully disagree.

I cannot and will not just brush off or ignore comments, or offer a platform for the spreading of stereotypes and tropes that I have spent a lifetime opposing. That is why our office took the step to turn off all social media comments. These words hurt Indigenous peoples and damage the progress we have made together towards reconciliation. Other comments reflect harm to all women and girls in Canada—especially those who reflect the diversity of our country—and who engage in public life but suffer as a result. It hurts everyone, everywhere.

I am speaking about this for others who cannot, for fear of reprisal or retribution. But my hope is that others will join me. We must continue to speak about the repercussions of harmful discourse, and to push back against those who would denigrate women for their contributions. And we must promote respectful discourse, because engaging with each other is critical to creating a better world and addressing our planet’s most pressing issues.

I take my inspiration from women everywhere, particularly those young people who refuse to withdraw or self‑censure. I want to stand beside the younger generation and others who will no longer accept online abuse as routine or as an obstacle to leadership. And who are actively working to ensure our conversations reflect the diversity of Canada.

On International Women’s Day, I hope for a world where true equity and respect are not the exception, but the norm. Let us all work together to achieve this vision. And thank you to women and girls everywhere who stand up for our country, for our society, for our families and for our future.

Mary Simon

Media information:
Rideau Hall Press Office

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