Thank you, Your Honour. A negative impact of this pandemic has been the rise of anti-science information. Merging fear with falsehood, disinformation is being shared widely, often through social media, by people who may not be able to separate science fact from science fiction. It is unknowingly shared by those for whom the emotional impact of the messages resonate, and knowingly shared by those whose intent is more sinister.
The World Health Organization has called this phenomenon “the infodemic” and describes it thus:
An infodemic . . . . includes deliberate attempts to disseminate wrong information to undermine the public health response and advance alternative agendas of groups or individuals.
Misinformation costs lives. . . . diagnostic tests go unused, immunization campaigns . . . will not meet their targets, and the virus will continue to thrive.
. . . disinformation is polarizing public debate . . . amplifying hate speech; heightening the risk of conflict, violence and human rights violations; and threatening long-term prospects for advancing democracy, human rights and social cohesion.
In Canada, disinformation includes but is not limited to: the hydroxychloroquine debacle; assertions that COVID either does not exist or that it is merely the flu; the refusal of some to adhere to basic public health directives such as mask wearing; assertions that vaccines will cause infertility in women; and that elites have created the pandemic to enslave populations for geopolitical purposes by implanting microchips into vaccines.
In Canada, coordinated government responses to this infodemic have been slow to materialize, and as a result, legitimate health and science institutions have been playing catch-up. However, scientists and health experts are stepping into the breach.
I am pleased to share with this chamber information about one successful initiative that has brought together hundreds of scientists, health care providers and science communicators to fight back. It is called Science Up First, La Science Dábord, and it is working hard to counter this infodemic and promote a science-smart narrative. This will help all Canadians to rationally and effectively take charge of their health, by learning how to separate sense from nonsense, not only during this crisis but in the post-pandemic world that we will hopefully soon inherit.
Honourable senators, please join with me in recognizing, applauding and supporting the hard work that those who are involved with Science Up First are doing and wish them every success.