It’s not often the defining moment in a French language leaders’ debate happens in English, but that’s what Rebel News served up on Wednesday. After a Federal Court judge ordered the Leaders’ Debates Commission to let one of its reporters cover the debates, Rebel News used its questions to talk about itself. For a website that likes to accuse the prime minister of being a narcissist, Rebel’s house looks dangerously glassy here.

After Justin Trudeau explained Rebel’s exclusion from the debates was a decision made by the commission, not his government, he returned the stone thrown in his direction.

“The reality is, organizations — organizations like yours — that continue to spread misinformation and disinformation on the science around vaccines … is part of why we’re seeing such unfortunate anger and lack of understanding of basic science,” he said. “Frankly, your — I won’t call it a media organization — your group of individuals need to take accountability for some of the polarization that we’re seeing in this country.”

For the thousands of people who watched this clip, it was a satisfying rebuke of an organization that has contributed to the polarization of our political discourse in Canada. But while the exchange between Rebel News and the PM may have been an unwitting gift to the Liberals, the exchange should remind everyone that all groups dedicated to spreading misinformation and anger are a cancer on our body politic. These groups specialize in ginning up fear and anger around any number of causes, whether it’s attacking progressive leaders like Rachel Notley and Trudeau or undermining the scientific consensus around climate change and vaccines. Indeed, it’s built right into their business models, and the prime minister’s rebuke will almost certainly generate a renewed flow of donations and cash for groups like The Rebel.

That’s why, if the Liberals emerge as the biggest player in the next Parliament, Trudeau needs to do more than just talk a good game about bad-faith actors. He should move forward with amendments to the Criminal Code, the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the Youth Criminal Justice Act proposed by his government earlier this year to take aim at online hate speech and those who traffic in it.

Those amendments would make it easier to launch complaints against online publications and individuals who trade in targeted harassment and hate, and levy fines of up to $20,000 for those found guilty. That’s a far cry from the penalties available under German law, which include fines of up to $73 million for companies that don’t remove “obviously illegal material” within 24 hours. But it’s a step in the direction and one that’s pretty clearly overdue.

And while social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter in Canada were exempted from those proposed changes, it’s only a matter of time before they’re looped into this as well. That’s where the vast majority of online racist, misogynistic and other hate is generated and shared, according to a 2020 report from the U.K.-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

And while Canadians have a reputation for being polite, the report’s data suggests it is undeserved. It showed Canadian users on the fringe website 4Chan created 1,636,558 posts or 5.71 per cent of the total content. When compared to the country’s “estimated internet-using population,” Canada had the highest per-capita rate of users in the world on that website.

It was hardly the only one, either. In total, the researchers found 6,660 right-wing extremist channels, pages, groups, and accounts across seven social media platforms, which included mainstream sites like Facebook and Twitter and more marginal ones like Gab, Fascist Forge, and Iron March. In total, those forums reached more than 11 million users.

And in case anyone still wants to pretend this is all just talk, there’s the terrorist attack earlier this year that killed a Muslim family in London, Ont. Anti-Muslim hate, along with broadsides against Trudeau and conspiracies about COVID-19, is the bread and butter of these online hate factories, and the consequences are spreading nearly as virulently as the virus itself. Just as the COVID-19 virus replicates inside the host, these forums and websites are creating new vectors for hate and violence and infecting a growing population of vulnerable people.

Opinion: Until all of our federal leaders, including the conservative ones, take a harder line here, the twin viruses of hate and misinformation will continue to spread, writes columnist @maxfawcett for @NatObserver. #elxn44

It’s time to start inoculating ourselves more aggressively against their spread. That means all of our political leaders, including the ones who know some of their supporters frequent these websites and forums, have to speak out decisively against anyone who trafficks in hate.

It was good to see Trudeau stand up against Rebel News and everything it represents. Jagmeet Singh is right to refuse to answer its questions. And Erin O’Toole has finally accepted, if somewhat belatedly, that he can’t keep granting interviews to the website. But until all of our federal leaders, including the conservative ones, take a harder line here, the twin viruses of hate and misinformation will continue to spread.

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I believe the CONS campaign manager for Sheer came directly from REB media. soft ball questions on the links to Nazis at Ford's picnics (with photo proof), yet no sustained questions, coverage, follow up by ANY media.
parties will do what media lets them get away with.

On abortion access, where are the hardball questions to O'Tool that 68 of his candidates are pledged to support anti women 's rights groups agendas? and or dont believe climate chaos is human caused? how is he going to deal with those members? he has one vote in caucus.
waste of time to read mainstream press usually, but scary how many casually follow like good malleable unthinking citizens letting their opinions be pushed this way or that

eg. anti muslim stuff that didnt exist pre 9/11
cons being good fiscally and ndp not. hint, provincial budget history shows the opposite

Good article. I didn't know the history but last night at the post debate press conference the leaders refused to take questions from Rebel media. One of them (Singh?) entertained one from Sheila Gunn Reid but she just unleashed
a bunch of narcissistic vitriol and then he refuse to answer her. There really was no other choice. Good for him! Good for all of them!

Mr. O'Toole is looking more and more like the next Prime Minister - he may even get a majority government. And that with only one in four (or one in five) Canadians voting for him.

And when that comes to pass, the so-called basket of deplorables, including those that he seemingly only hesitantly (and recently) has condemned, will come with him.

The Americans call FPTP what it is - a two party system. And a lot of those on the progressive side of the spectrum down there strongly dislike it because most of the time it forces one to vote against the worst candidate. AND it encourages the politics of polarization, because under FPTP it turns out, or should I say "this just in!", is a winning strategy.

What to do about it? Push hard for electoral reform. Make it an election issue. Make it *THE* election issue. But in the meantime don't ignore the current FPTP rules of the road, lest you split the vote and allow your personal electoral nightmare to cake-walk to power with only one in four or one in five Canadians in support.

Max you are indeed an expert on speaking about misinformation and fear mongering. This article is an excellent example. Grouping people that are vocal about climate change and vaccine passports in the same category as racists and criminals just because they see the same information differentlry than you. The fact is the people you say are antivaxxers are actually against the restrictions on freedoms being imposed on everyone based on vaccine status. Many of the people you have deemed "antivaxxers" actually have the vaccine and do not agree with the restriction policies. Many also agree with vaccines but not the rushed in experimental vaccines. It is the same with the "climate deniers". Many agree there is change happening but are skeptical of the extremes predicted. The issue you fail to recognize is the "misinformation" (in your amateur opinion) is from people who have as many letters behind their names and have as much experience as the people you deem experts. To stop their views is called Censorship and to limit the sources of information is a commonly accepted Dictatorship principle. It sure appears that you are in favour of these principles. Thankfully you only write Opinion pieces.

"They see the same information differently than you?" So you think science is just a matter of opinion, and yours is as good as the consensus of thousands of scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change? Maybe you're like the woman in agreement with you on here who just balks at "consensus?" Doesn't like being "lumped in?"
Restrictions placed on people relative to their vaccine status are because there is a pandemic, which means there is a highly contagious and dangerous virus among us? Ya know? Currently overwhelming our hospitals here in freedumb-loving, entitled Alberta. You think you know as much as doctors and epidemiologists as well? Anyone who dismisses education usually is a conservative as well; these various overlapping, intersecting paranoias are what many of us see as a recognizable "suite of stupidity."

Science is a matter of interpretation of the data, not by consensus. In regards to the climate crisis it is the interpretation of results from models that can not possibly account for all the parameters required and therefore use a range of results. Convieniently NO and most environmental groups focuses on the extreme outcomes because there is no other reason for their existence if the apparent climate crisis goes away. Like I said there is information available from people who have as many credentials behind their names as the ones spouting the fear mongering. Who are you to decide which credentials are best? Have you researched your statements besides the CBC fear generator station? Have you read the IPCC report? It's only 3944 pages.
Same goes for the apparent Pandemic with a whopping 0.1% of the population currently infected with a <1% chance of dying if you are infected depending on your age group. Don't need to be a Doctor or Epidemiologist to get those numbers.
There is not consensus out there, and to try and suppress the information from these equally educated professionals amounts to Censorship in a Dictatorship which you also seem to be in agreement with. I am a proud Alberta Canadian that does enjoy the freedom we have here. By the way, notice the correct spelling of freedom, Your spelling further reduces the value of your comment if you have to resort to name calling. It is not just Albertans that are against these vaccine passport policies. You have the freedom to do whatever you want to yourself. Do not try and force your limited views on everyone else especially when you refuse to look at all the information.

We need to stop calling these election events that happened last night "debates." Any time an interesting exchange may have started it was cut off by the moderators either a bit too gleefully calling time or interrupting in an overeager "gotcha" style to claim their moment. And overall, everyone is so ridiculously "conflict-averse" now that superficiality predominates no matter what. So a waste of time.
The stand-out, breakaway moment for me was when Blanchet defended their secularism law that all and sundry smugly denounce (same as with Trudeau; it's how we are reminded that the main media in the country is conservative-owned) by pointing out, rightly, that women's rights are not safe with religion, and never will be. He inserted this quickly and it was ignored completely of course because religion somehow gets a complete pass despite being the elephant in the room on many important issues. So uber-tolerant and/or circumspect are we that the most religious aren't even CALLED that, are now "social conservatives." This even when our ever evolving human rights, ESPECIALLY women's, are trumped by the right to "believe" in the god and accompanying alternate reality of choice despite the resulting sanction that provides for an alternate authority. Which helps explain where the current, hugely problematic "big lie" got its solid platform in the super-religious U.S., along with social media. Also explains why science gets so casually relegated, not to mention the judiciary, so Blanchet's line was a ray of light, a reclamation of truth in what we're calling a "post-truth" world, which will be, already IS, unlivable.

Yeah, yeah, laicite whatever. The Quebecois are fine with Catholicism stepping on people; their "secularist" laws are always carefully tuned to step on particular groups. It's racist as hell, and very specifically panders to a large group of racist Quebecois.

After living in Quebec for twenty something years I'm still trying to get my head around this. I'd like to think of it as a yawningly-large cultural blindspot. Perhaps last night's debate blunt moment with Ms. Paul was an "arrive en ville" moment for Mr. Blanchet, it certainly appeared to make him angry enough, maybe enough to re-consider the firmament of his moral high-ground on the matter.

I'm sure they exist, but the fact remains that religion isn't a race, which is immutable and real. Rather, it's just another set of ideas, so can be criticized, and even discarded! Although the worst set of ideas we ever came up with, it IS us who came up with them.
So it's refreshing to see it marginalized. Given an inch, it's taken the proverbial mile, and THEN some. I live in Alberta which is currently governed by the usual sneaky bunch of evangelicals, headed by a horrible little fascist who is a closet gay Catholic.
Increasingly aggressively political religion needs to be punted back into PRIVATE life where it belongs. And Quebec people had the boot of Catholicism down their throats for long enough to know whereof they speak. Let's hear you defend Catholicism.

There is no scientific consensus on the safety and efficacy of the Covid vaccine as stated in this article. There is a glaring absence of discussion/debate presented by the corporate media. Sadly the National Observer with Max Fawcett presents the same message which, if repeated enough as Hitler's Big Lie, infiltrates and manipulates people's opinions. The tragedy, the entrenched racist media is the only media offering the other side of the story, partially and imperfectly mind you and embarrassingly so, but at least it presents questions that are completely ignored with the present hysteria fanned by the press. Come on National Observer, show the evidence on the supression of treatments for Covid for which the vaccine and the vaccine only is the only "treatment"--experimental mind you because nobody knows the long term effects. Inform us with the confusion of what a case is, and worse what is an unvaccinated case which I understand includes people with only one shot and those in the 14 d after their 2nd shot shedding large quantities of viruses when their immunity is compromised by the injection. What is the ratio of testing vaccinated/non vaccinated? When I read 67 cases in my health region, how can I compare with the numbe of cancers, motor vehicle accidents, suicides? Where are you Max Fawcett ignoring crucial questions censored by this type of reporting? How many doctors and scientists with different views and concerns have you interviewed? Be sure to check their ties with Big Pharma, you may be surprised.

The big gaping hole in your entire stance is that scientists are the ones who come up with vaccines, and anyone who says they were too quick totally ignores the careful, conservative approach that is reflected in the scientific method, not to mention the fact that scientists are usually nerd types who very much lack the agendas of big corporations like Pfizer. On the other hand, only Pfizer has the resources and money to do the necessary research and distribution required, so is irreplaceable.
Paranoia has truly reached epidemic proportions since social media, but there have always been people like yourself who react with knee-jerk reflexive pushback to ANY consensus, period, as Max Fawcett described. Also, there have always been people who simply reject authority on principle. We all like to feel somewhat special, but have you heard of "oppositional defiance disorder?" And try googling the phenomenon of "conservative brain." It's a thing, and you may well see yourself described. Oh, and try reading the links on National Observer articles once in awhile, especially in any article on misinformation and just HOW elaborate manipulation can be online. In the real world, there's "Occam's razor."

Fawcett: "whether it’s attacking progressive leaders like Rachel Notley and Trudeau or undermining the scientific consensus around climate change"
Who does more to undermine the scientific consensus on climate than "progressive" leaders like Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau?
Doesn't matter what your policies are on farm labor, GSAs, childcare, etc. If you're not progressive on climate, you're not progressive.
Scientific reality is non-negotiable. Either you accept the science and respond accordingly, or you don't.
Political parties who ignore scientific reality do not deserve the votes of responsible citizens.
Rapid man-made global warming is a disaster.
So are govts that fail to address it.

In fact, "progressive" govts and leaders have proved far more effective than Conservatives in delivering on Big Oil's and Corporate Canada's agenda.
Trudeau and Notley and Horgan have persuaded many Canadians we can both act on climate and double down on fossil fuels. Have our cake and eat it too.
Trudeau and Notley moved the ball on the Trans Mountain pipeline down to the ten-yard line. Their signal achievement was to "push country-wide support for pipelines from 40% to 70%." Something Harper, Scheer, and Kenney could never dream of doing.
Why is it worse when the progressive party fails on climate?
When Harper and Kenney says no to a shift away from fossil fuels, the progressive option is still ON the table.
When Trudeau and Notley say no, they took the progressive option OFF the table.
Trudeau and Notley did something else Harper and Kenney could never do: lead progressives over the climate cliff. Their acolytes now embrace a climate change denialist position.
When Harper and Kenney deny the science, progressives reject their arguments and head in the opposite direction.
When Trudeau and Notley deny the science, progressives accept their arguments and enable their climate sabotage.

With her pipeline hysteria, Notley led progressives astray to support oilsands and pipelines, downplay the science, and ignore IPCC warnings. Something Jason Kenney cannot do.
Trudeau's, Notley's, and Horgan's brand of denialism lulls the public into a dangerous complacency and paralysis. "Progressive" denialism is more insidious than the blatant right-wing variety.
Liberal and AB NDP policy eliminate the progressive option and all hope for real climate action.
"The New Climate Denialism: Time for an Intervention" (The Narwhal, Sep 26, 2016)

Conservative deni-osaurs deny the generally accepted science of climate change.
The petro-progressiv-atops claim to accept the climate change science, but still push pipelines, approve LNG projects, promote oilsands expansion, subsidize fossil fuels, and let fossil fuel interests dictate the agenda.
One side rejects the science on climate change; the other side ignores it.
Which is worse? The deniers who deny their house is on fire, or the deniers who accept their house is on fire, but throw fuel on the flames — then stand back and watch it burn?

Sadly, it's about money - and jobs are part of the money equation. Nottely figures she can't get elected if she tells the truth and that may be true. The Liberal party has always been a pro-business party at the end of the day. Both Trudeau and Notley hope they can have their cake and eat it too.

" the exchange should remind everyone that all groups dedicated to spreading misinformation and anger are a cancer on our body politic. These groups specialize in ginning up fear and anger around any number of causes"

Presumably in that the writer includes CAPP, the Liberal party, and Mr. JT himself.

Talk about talk that's anti-science. Why is no mainstream news commentator calling the two main-party leaders on their climate lies and buffoonery?