Dean appointed to Canadian Commission on Democratic Expression

Posted on Thursday, June 11, 2020

Dean Adam Dodek has been named one of the seven Commissioners of the new Canadian Commission on Democratic Expression.

The annual Commission, established by the Public Policy Forum, will develop policy options to directly address the harmful impacts of digital technologies on Canada's democratic institutions and public life. The Commission is supported by national citizen assemblies as well as by an independent research program led by the Centre for Media, Technology and Democracy at McGill University's Max Bell School of Public Policy.

The other Commissioners are:

  • Rick Anderson, Principal, Earnscliffe Strategy Group
  • Julie Caron-Malenfant, Director General, Institut du Nouveau Monde
  • Amira Elghawaby, Journalist & Human Rights Advocate
  • Jameel Jaffer, Executive Director, Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University
  • Jean La Rose, Former Chief Executive Officer, Aboriginal Peoples Television Network
  • The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, P.C., C.C., Former Chief Justice of Canada


“I’m honoured and excited to be part of this important project,” said Dean Dodek. “We need to be particularly concerned about democratic expression in the digital age.   The current global pandemic raises additional issues and challenges for democratic expression.”


The Challenge
According to the Public Policy Forum: “Digital media and technologies broaden access to information, enable new forms of participation and reshape the economy.  They also pose systemic challenges to democratic institutions and public life. Today, algorithms embedded in social media platforms work to shape our public and private lives. These technologies can compromise the quality of publicly available information, and increase the prevalence of hate speech and identity-based discrimination both online and off. 

“The challenge is to maximize and safeguard the democratic potential of the digital public sphere while mitigating threats that pose significant harms.” 

2020 Citizens' Assembly
Earlier this spring, 12,500 households across Canada received an invitation to volunteer to support the Commission by serving on a Citizens' Assembly. More than 450 Canadians volunteered, and 42 have been randomly selected to serve as citizen representatives. The Assembly will meet in Winnipeg and Ottawa over six days and advise the Commission on its values and priorities with respect to digital technology and democratic expression.

2020 Research Program
Led by McGill's Centre for Media, Technology and Democracy, the research program aims to inform the Commission and its stakeholders on key issues pertaining to democratic harms of digital technologies; to support the Commission's deliberations and the work of the citizen's assemblies, and to respond to their needs throughout the deliberative process. The research program will develop timely reports from international experts and disseminate results to the broader public on the following key issues for year one:

  • Legal aspects of hate speech and freedom of expression in Canada
  • Technological infrastructure of online harm
  • The digital public sphere
  • Targeted online hate communication
  • Online hate and vulnerable communities
  • Public health misinformation and disinformation
  • Technologically-facilitated gender-based violence online

Open Invitation for Submissions
To ensure that all interested members of the public and institutions have an opportunity to have their voice heard, the Commission will invite written submissions consistent with the areas of inquiry. Submissions will be accepted from July 1 to September 30, 2020.

"The Commission has been constructed with true participation at its core:  the public's voices and the experts, filling a gap on research not overseen by technology providers or a study's sponsoring party,” said Michel Cormier, Executive Director of the Canadian Commission on Democratic Expression.

“We look forward to engagement across the spectrum and the valuable input both the Commissioners and the public will provide."

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