How Polarization Manifests in Canada
The Canadian Commission on Democratic Expression and Digital Democracy Project was established in spring 2020 with a three-year mandate to better understand, anticipate, and respond to the effects of new digital technologies on public life and Canadian democracy.
The first year focused on the reduction of online harms and other harms threatening democracy, which laid out a six-step program to reduce online hate and other harms. Year two, the project deliberated “How can governments and the public incentivize greater transparency and accountability measures to minimize the potential harms of online platforms including mis and disinformation, online hate and abuses of privacy.”
Now in year 3, the project seeks to understand how polarization manifests in Canada. PPF is researching the issue of polarization and its ongoing threat to a healthy and vibrant democracy. With this in mind, the project involves a dynamic and comprehensive program of study and has taken a systemic approach to understanding the issue. PPF has engaged communities across the nation through its historical approach of working with thinkers, deciders and doers including:
- Eight expert-led research papers: In partnership with McGill University’s Center for Media, Technology and Democracy, 8 academics wrote essays on different aspects of polarization. These essays will soon be released. Please check for the link to be shared here in June 2023.
Community roundtables: PPF engaged Victoria Kuketz, an established policy and grassroots community leader, and appointed her as a Research Fellow in Democracy. She designed and led this project, built partnerships with grassroots organizations, and scaled six nationwide community roundtables to engage youth on their experiences of polarization in their home communities. As a result, PPF built trust and partnered with five community organizations across the country so we could align with pre-existing programs and the youth who either lead or seek services from them. There was a focus on the 18-34 demographic in order to keenly understand the youth perspective as little is known on this issue. PPF acknowledges and thanks its ongoing work with YMCA Canada, Apathy is Boring, Love Nova Scotia, the Lifelong Leadership Institute, and First Work Ontario in achieving diverse and regional youth representation. These youth were paid an honorarium for their contributions.
- A national survey: PPF partnered with RIWI to survey 1500 youth across Canada to complement the roundtables and provide a representative sample.
- A symposium and roundtable in March 2023: This event will bring together those invested in this issue and democracy more broadly, across different sectors to share their learnings and cultivate discussion.
- A national virtual townhall: In partnership with the Democratic Engagement Exchange, PPF will reconvene all the youth those who participated in the community roundtables where we will share what we learned from our discussions with them and their unique contributions.
- A report: Renowned journalist Justin Ling will bring together each element of the project and release a report in early July that will ultimately help us all understand just how polarization is manifesting in Canada.
- An expert advisory: PPF is pleased to announce the participation of a preeminent group of Canadian leaders who are advising this project including:
- Chair: Victoria Kuketz, Research Fellow in Democracy, Public Policy Forum
- Edward Greenspon, President and CEO, Public Policy Forum
- Chief Cadmus Delorme, Chief, Cowessess First Nation
- Dr. Cristine de Clercy, Jarislowsky Chair, Trent University
- Dr. Eric Merkley, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto
- John Beebe, Founder, Democratic Engagement Exchange
- Nathalie Des Rosiers, Principal, Massey College, University of Toronto
- Samantha Reusch, Executive Director, Apathy is Boring
- Trevor Massey, Chair, Lifelong Leadership Institute
- Shweta Menon, Policy Lead, Public Policy Forum
- Justin Ling, Journalist and project report writer