The governor general wants to campaign against despicable, abusive behavior online
Governor General Mary Simon says she hopes to start a conversation about abuse and online bullying, building on her own experience on the issue since taking office.
In an interview with CBC News Network Power & Politics Aired on Friday, Simon reflected on her recent decision to shut down online comments on her social media channels and posted a video highlighting racist, misogynistic and abusive slurs she has received online.
“When something happens to me personally, I try to use it as an opportunity to have a discussion about those issues,” Simon told host David Cochrane.
Simon’s office closed comments on his social media accounts last month. The bureau said in a statement at the time that it had “observed 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 woman governor-general in Canadian history. Before the appointment, she was a diplomat and broadcaster.
Simon said that while she dealt with insults long before she became the British monarch’s representative in Canada, online comments were different.
“It’s new in a way because you don’t know who’s making these comments. It’s vague, it’s a gray area,” she said.
“I’ve faced various situations that have impacted me personally, but I’ve been able to confront the person responsible for either the behavior or the comments that were made … and I’ve grown from those situations.”
Simon was born in Kangiqsualujjuaq in northern Quebec and is Inuk. She is fluent in Inuktitut.
Simon said the comments targeting her legacy were particularly hurtful.
“I’m the governor general. I’m responsible for many things, including the country’s diversity, to bring people together and to speak about what the country is going through,” she said.
“And being attacked on some kind of racist level is hurtful.”
Simon posted a video on Wednesday, International Women’s Day, in which she highlighted some offensive comments on social media that she had received. She said Friday the video started dialogue “at a very strong level.”
“We need to discuss these issues and see what we can do because there are so many women and girls and other people affected by this type of behavior,” she said.
“It’s not just a women’s issue, it’s not just a girls’ issue. It’s a folk issue…so it’s important to me to get it out there and have that dialogue.”
Simon added that since the video was released, she has received many positive comments. She said her office will seek to work with new business and political partners at home and abroad to address the issue.
She hopes her message can show progress next International Women’s Day.
“I think that’s a really important part, that we should really be known for doing something, not just having a discussion and then going home for the next event,” she said.