Governor General wants to campaign against vile, abusive online behaviour
Gov. Gen. Mary Simon says she hopes to start a conversation on abuse and online bullying, building on her own experiences with the issue since taking office.
In an interview with CBC News Network's Power & Politics airing on Friday, Simon reflected on her recent decision to close online comments on her social media channels and release a video highlighting racist, misogynistic and abusive insults she's received online.
"When something happens to me, personally, I try and use it as an opportunity to create a discussion about those issues," Simon told host David Cochrane.
Simon's office closed comments on its social media accounts last month. The office said in a statement at the time that it "witnessed an increase in abusive, misogynistic and racist engagement on social media and online platforms."
Simon, 75, made history in 2021 when she became the first Indigenous Governor General in Canadian history. Prior to the appointment, she was a diplomat and a broadcaster.
Simon said that while she dealt with insults long before becoming the British monarch's representative in Canada, the online comments are different.
"It's new in some ways because it's where you don't know who's making those comments. It's vague, it's a grey area," she said.
"I've experienced different situations that affected me personally, but I was able to confront the person that was responsible for either the behaviour or the comments that were being made … and I grew from those situations."
Simon was born in Kangiqsualujjuaq in Northern Quebec and is Inuk. She speaks Inuktitut fluently.
Simon said the comments targeting her heritage were particularly hurtful.
"I'm the Governor General. I'm responsible for many things, including the diversity of the country, to bring people together, to talk about what the country is going through," she said.
"And to be attacked on sort of a racially-based level is hurtful."
Simon released a video Wednesday, on International Women's Day, highlighting some abusive comments on social media she's received. She said Friday the video has started a dialogue "on a very strong level."
"We have to discuss those issues and see what we can do, because there are so many women and girls and other people that are being affected by this type of behaviour," she said.
"It's not just a women's issue, it's not just a girls' issue. It's a people's issue ... so it's important for me to bring it out into the open and to have that dialogue."
Simon added that she's received many positive comments since releasing the video. She said her office will look to work with new partners in business and politics, both domestic and foreign, to address the issue.
She hopes her message on the next International Women's Day can show some progress.
"I think this is a really important part, that we should really be known to be doing something, not just to have a discussion and then go back home for the next event," she said.