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PeaceTalks: What does the relationship between democracy and disinformation mean for Canada's election?

“The point of modern propaganda isn't only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” ― Garry Kasparov

A recent survey conducted by the Canadian Journalism Foundation found that 40% of respondents struggle to differentiate between real and false news stories. Many will recall the robocall scandal of the 2011 elections, directing Ontario voters to erroneous polling locations.

Meanwhile, Facebook Canada has refused to take down doctored content during the federal election campaign, while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg have ignored the subpoena to testify before the International Grand Committee on Big Data, Privacy and Democracy in Ottawa.

As we enter into a federal election season here in Canada, it raises the question of what role online media, propaganda, and disinformation will play. With many individuals increasingly aware of targeted ads, Facebook’s controversial data collection, and numerous other disinformation issues, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed.

At the end of June, PeaceGeeks hosted our forty-first PeaceTalk, to discuss this topic and attempt to bring some clarity and insight into disinformation — and what it means for Canada’s elections this autumn. Our panel included John Gray, the Co-founder of Mentionmapp and Misinfosec Working Group (Lead Contributor) at Credibility Coalition, Lindsay Sample, the Managing Editor at The Discourse, and Chris Tenove, a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of British Columbia.

Chris Tenove began our talk with a short presentation on disinformation and what the term encompasses. For Chris the definition given by the European Union is the best, stating that disinformation is “verifiably false or misleading information that is created, presented and disseminated for economic gain or to intentionally deceive the public and may cause public harm.” By contrast, misinformation is the unintentional sharing of misleading information.

Chris then divided disinformation into what he refers to as clear and fuzzy cases, explaining how this is still a “new universe” that is being discovered. Clear cases are the very obvious examples of manipulation such as false stories and claims, doctored images, bots, and fake accounts. Fuzzy cases are more difficult to identify, and encompass a wide range of topics such as distorted claims, hyper partisan or polarizing memes, online ads-leal but targeted, or leaks of private documents.

The issue with this extensive list is that it is not exhaustive, and we are still learning about the different forms disinformation can take. In an attempt to manage disinformation the Canadian government has implemented new election laws and large online platforms known to be heavily used prior to the campaign period have banned political ads until the writ is dropped.

Addressing such heavy topics can feel daunting, but despite this Lindsay Sample highlights the importance of journalism and the role journalists play in preventing mis/disinformation from spreading. Sample stated how fact checking alone isn’t going to change the game, it’s the first step but more facts aren’t going to solve polarization. She discussed how when we see certain topics, we are often responding with emotion, and therefore feeding facts to the issue will not always provide a solution or resolution. Instead, we have to learn how to actively engage in a meaningful way with people who disagree. The Discourse explores these different routes to engage in meaningful conversation.

The audience was left with an important thought to keep in mind, as individuals, communities and groups we can get worked up over a specific incident or event. This can divert our attention from other very important topics, that are less emotionally charged but can alter Canada’s political decisions. As we enter the elections period here in Canada, we must ensure that despite the  “big issues” we also pay attention to topics that are left on the back burner but important to how the elected party will make decisions for the next four years. 

As the evening came to a close, for many it left one big question: how do we engage with disinformation in a proactive way for the purpose of combating it?

Here’s where our forty-first PeaceTalk left off:

  • If you choose to engage, be prepared for all sides of the argument. There are a plethora of opinions and some may not align with you.
  • Do your research and make conscious decisions before reposting something.
  • Stay informed! If something seems questionable, look at reliable studies and garner a better understanding of the topic.
  • Don’t shy away from participating in conversations about disinformation! Actively engaging even with the idea of disinformation can help raise the awareness of misleading or false claims.
  • Ask questions when consuming media in all its various forms: does what I’m reading/seeing/hearing make sense? Does it seem like a fair claim? Is there evidence for the claim/statement being made?

For this PeaceTalk, we created a question wall and invited attendees to add their questions before, during, or after the talk. Some of the topics that popped up many times included: vulnerability to misinformation, social media's influence on elections (in Canada and in other countries), how we can learn from other countries’ successes, and potential solutions to mis/disinformation.

In order to give you the best responses, we’re compiling a ToolBox (with the help of our panelists) of some helpful resources to advocate for accuracy of information across the media. Below, you can find links to publications that were mentioned at the talk, as well as websites to help combat disinformation.

Information ToolBox:

Try out this game and test your disinformation skills!

Missed the talk? Watch it here.

Check out our awesome photos from the event here.

Follow our Panelists on Social Media:

This article was written by PeaceGeeks staff member Kate Morford.

Jul 23, 2019

PeaceTalks: Threats to independent journalism as the DRC heads towards its next elections

“It's not a Canada problem or a Congo problem, it’s a humanity problem.” - Babaluku, Congolese Rapper & Rights Activist

Though widely underreported, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is in the middle of a political crisis.

On 23 December 2018, the DRC will hold its next presidential and parliamentary elections. The Congolese people will determine a successor to President Joseph Kabila, the incumbent since 2001. Tensions are high: in the last decade, Africa has faced an alarming trend of presidential term limit extensions, leading to political violence all across the region.

For Kabila, his second and final presidential term was slated to expire at the end of 2016. Kabila promised to hold elections by the end of 2017 — a broken promise as elections are only now happening this month.

Congolese citizens await the change of government with anticipation and optimism, but the elections also bring a sense of fear. The DRC hasn’t experienced a peaceful power transition since 1960. Recently, violent clashes between government and rebel forces are becoming increasingly common, spilling into the North Kivu and Ituri provinces, affecting a growing number of civilian populations. Attacks on local villages have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people, displacing thousands to other cities within the DRC, and across the border into neighbouring Uganda.

On October 24th, PeaceGeeks hosted our 40th PeaceTalk at the HiVE coworking space in downtown Vancouver in collaboration with the SFU African Students' Association and Bunia Actualité, an independent news organization operating in the DRC.

The talk, titled Intersection of Independent Journalism and Elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, brought a closer look to the challenges and opportunities facing the DRC and independent journalists.

The talk featured Don Wright, Amnesty International’s National Outreach and Coordination Manager, King Solomon, a refugee and student at Simon Fraser University who helped found Bunia Actualité, Babaluku, a Ugandan rapper and community youth activist and social entrepreneur, and Luc Malembe, journalist and Director of Bunia Actualité, who teleconferenced in from the DRC. The talk was moderated by Peter Wood of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Don Wright opened the dialogue with an overview of Amnesty International’s work responding to violence faced by journalists around the world, highlighting that professional foreign press and local agents alike are, in many regions around the globe, being “cracked down upon,” facing threats of imprisonment, and in some cases, even death.

Wright also highlighted the role Canada and its mining companies play in social conflicts in the DRC. Canada’s interests and holdings in the region include $40 million USD in annual imports, and $4.5 billion USD in mining-related assets. Wright added that many locals in the rural regions of Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America are regularly jailed -- or killed --  for attempting to protect their home environment from Canadian mining companies.

King Solomon, who emigrated as a refugee from the DRC to Canada in 2009, spoke to his personal experiences with the socio-economic and political crises. His testimony was emotional as he expressed the shame he felt at running away from the place he had called home his whole life.

Solomon helped to establish the website, one of the few independent news organizations in the DRC. Since its conception in October 2017, the grassroots news organization Bunia Actualité has gained significant traction both on its website and its initial Facebook page (started in 2015) which has over 111,000 followers.

Using an interactive online map, Reporters without Borders, which ranks the level of freedom of the press in countries across the globe, Solomon pointed out the vast instability and restrictions against free journalism in the world, and especially in post-colonial regions that continue to experience conflict.

Malembe, a well-known political commentator in the DRC, called in via teleconference to share his personal account of being imprisoned and threatened on several occasions for writing openly. Malembe was jailed for a month in the city of Bunia’s central prison in December 2017 for participating in a protest against the President.

“Today, [the DRC] is one of the most repressed countries for journalism in Africa,” Malembe said. Along with directing Bunia Actualité, Malembe also founded one of the largest civil rights movements in the DRC, called LUCHA, which translates in English to “Fight for Change.”

Malembe noted that the introduction of technology and online forums have allowed for independent journalism in the DRC because writers are no longer tied to offices that can be physically targeted. But efforts to control and repress these outlets have increased as well.

More than 150,000 citizens rely on the internet to learn about what is happening in their region. However, with lack of access to modern equipment, citizens face many technological barriers. Malembe called for action from Canadians to help overcome and solve these obstacles in order to help bring to an end the constant state of violence and war.

Babaluku, rapper and Founder of the Bavubaka Foundation, highlighted the importance of language, art, and music in connecting and mobilizing citizens, especially youth, to become advocates for peace within their communities. The Bavubaka Foundation is a Ugandan organization committed to restoring hope and healing in communities, using music and the arts to empower a new generation of  leaders in Uganda and all of Africa to use their voices to affect positive social change.

Reflecting on his work with youth, Babaluku discussed one of the biggest challenges he faces, that many do not see the significance of their efforts and do not believe they can contribute even within their personal communities, let alone globally. Their feeling of invisibility and powerlessness discourages their involvement in art and design, which Babaluku believes is key to overcoming crisis and violence. He emphasized that it is the artists, designers, and musicians leading the conversation for change.

A Ugandan-Canadian, Babaluku underlined that these political and humanitarian crises are global and borderless issues. “It’s not a Canada, problem or a Congo problem, it’s a humanity problem,” he stated. He did add that, as Canadians, we need to take responsibility for creating solutions and helping vulnerable communities, especially encouraging youth to realize their potential. Babaluku touched on the much-needed support from global allies to find a realistic and beneficial position within their foreign affairs policies to assist with tackling human rights crises.

The questions central to the DRC situation are also increasingly relevant here in North America:

What does it take to ensure an honest and fair election in a country strife with corruption, exploitation, and armed conflict? Can elevating the voices of independent journalists foster transparency and open dialogue, or simply increase polarization in an already divided nation?

The panelists left the audience with a the following action items:

  1. Spread the word. What’s going on in the DRC, whether it’s the upcoming elections or the intensive Canadian mining operations in the Congo, is not widely considered on the Canadian or global stages.
  2. Contact members of parliament to hire an ombudsperson to look into and raise awareness of the impacts of Canadian mining companies abroad.
  3. Donate to bridge the digital divide. Organizations like Bunia Actualité are looking for more resources, such as equipment and capacity, and support to sustain independent journalism. Learn how you can donate your old smartphone to equip local independent journalists to effectively report what’s happening on the ground in the DRC at
  4. Watch this video by Yole!Africa:, shared by Babaluku at the talk. Yole!Africa is a cultural centre for youth in the DRC started by internationally-acclaimed filmmaker and activist Petna Ndaliko Katondolo, in order to provide alternative education opportunities and empower youth to thrive and promote peace in spite of conflict in the region.
  5. Engage youth here at home. Seek opportunities in your communities to teach and share your passions with youth to help them become community builders.

Kiara Scott is a PeaceGeeks volunteer and contributing writer.

Dec 12, 2018
Category: Thematic Issues

PEACETALKS #39: Media & Refugee Narratives

Guest Speaker:
Sep 13, 2018
6:00 - 7:30PM
Vancouver Public Library (Central Branch), Peter Kaye Room

Panel Discussion
The news media plays an essential role in how we perceive refugees and asylum-seekers, which raises the question of what is their responsibility when reporting their stories. This panel discussion will explore the current representation of refugees and asylum-seekers in the media, its positive and negative impacts, and the potential of journalism to transcend stereotypes.

Speakers include:

  • Jean-Nicolas Beuze, Representative for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Canada
  • Peter Klein, Emmy Award-winning journalist and Executive Director of the Global Reporting Centre
  • Alia Dharssi, Vancouver-based journalist and editor who has written widely on immigration and refugee issues.
Thank You To:
Partnership With:
Sep 6, 2018
Category: PeaceTalks
Time 2:
6 PM

PeaceTalks: February - Sustainable Development Goals - Realistic or Idealistic?

To celebrate our first PeaceTalk of the year, we hosted our 30th PeaceTalk, Sustainable Development Goals - Realist or Idealistic? at the HiVE. We had an awesome turnout combined with a great line up speakers: Shannon Kindornay, Niki Soni, and Mike Simpson as well as our moderator, Peter Wood.

Shannon, a faculty member at Carlton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs began the discussion, touching on the transition between millennium developmental goals to sustainable development goals (SDG). She followed the quote “Leave no one behind”, and argued that if the most vulnerable people are not benefiting from our actions, then we as a whole are not succeeding, which left the audience inspired with awe.

Next, we saw the wonderful Nikunji Soni from the Pacific Institute of Public Policy. He covered topics from the differing perspectives held by the government and civil society, to where he referenced Shannon’s presentation on SDGs. He also provided some possible solutions and pitfalls we may encounter with the SDGs.

Our last speaker, Mike Simpson from the BC Council for International Cooperation urged the importance of SDGs. He stated, “We are the last generation to saving the planet”, where he placed concern on the indescribable amount of pressure that he been bounded upon our generation.

Mike asked the audience whether they believed we would be able to end poverty within 15 years, which lead to various comments and discussions. Half the audience was faithful, believing that the 15 year goal is possible, while the other half believed that ending poverty was not possible in that time limit. Mike pointed out that if did not believe that poverty could be solved within the next 15 years, then how could we even begin to solve it? He then talked about how change is definitely possible with reference to The Great Bear Rainforest. It was not a feasible project twenty years ago, but BC government finally agreed to safeguard 85% of the rainforest in 2016. Things are constantly undergoing changes; this opens up new possibilities that didn’t exist before.

To end the night off, we opened up a Q&A for the audience where audience members asked questions such as “How can we come to peace, when we are so close to coming to a third world war? Us countries do not trust one another.” Mike proceeded to answer this question and placed emphasis on the fact that we have to trust on another, otherwise we will all go down together. We will be left with no choice but to trust each other and help each other in order to thrive.

We had a wonderful outcome for our 30th and first PeaceTalk of the year and we would like to thank the panelists for speaking and for everyone who cleared the schedule to come to our event!

We hope that the audience left feeling inspired and motivated to make a difference in the world.

Feb 10, 2016

PeaceTalks #30: Sustainable Development Goals - Realistic or Idealistic?

Guest Speaker:
Mike Simpson, Nikunj Soni
Feb 3, 2016
6:00 8:30pm
HiVE Vancouver

Near the end of 2015, the United Nations announced "a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity."

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

" to build on the Millennium Development Goals and complete what these did not achieve.
They seek to realize the human rights of all and to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental."

Join PeaceGeeks and Amnesty International for PeaceTalks #30: Sustainable Development Goals - Realistic or Idealistic? at the HiVE on February 3!

With our expert speakers, this discussion will explore:

- What, exactly, are the SDGs?
- How do they differ from the Millenium Development Goals proposed in 2000 and are they any more likely to succeed?
- What is the potential value of the SDGs and what are the pitfalls?

Our featured speakers are Mike Simpson of the BC Council for International Cooperation, Nikunj Soni, who works for the Pacific Institute of Public Policy and Shannon Kildornay of the Norman Patterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University. The discussion will be moderated by Peter Wood of the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

Reserve your space to guarantee seating.

Jan 12, 2016
Category: PeaceTalks
Time 2:
6 PM to 8 PM

November: PeaceTalks, Fundraiser, #RHoK4Peace & Media Love for Services Advisor

November was a busy and productive month for PeaceGeeks! We kicked off our #GiveItUp4Peace crowdfunding campaign on November 1 and we've had an incredible response - over $30,000 raised so far with one more week to go!

On November 4, we hosted our 29th PeaceTalk at Hootsuite's offices. Refugee Crisis & Media Hype: Has Anything Changed? Are We Doing Enough featured speakers from Immigrant Services Society of BC, Simon Fraser University and immigration law as well as Majd Agha, one of the first Syrian refugees to arrive in Vancouver. The well-attended event covered topics from the stereotyping of refugees to specific suggestions for how Vancouverites can get involved in supporting arriving refugees. We look forward to hosting more PeaceTalks in the new year!

November 19 saw the PeaceGeeks crew out at the Portside Pub for our midcampaign fundraiser. Featuring live entertainement from The Werewolves, a stacked silent auction with contributions from the Vancouver Whitecaps, HootSuite, Ethical Bean, Lush and more, and lots of beer from Dageraad Brewing, it was a great event for a great cause. Mohammed Alsaleh, a Syrian refugee who came to Canada from Lebanon, spoke about his struggle to come to Canada and the difficulty of building a new life here. PeaceGeeks was honoured to have him as a speaker as well as donor to our raffle - one lucky attendee won a coffee date with Mohammed. We're sure he has more inspiring stories to share. For those who missed out, our friends at Umbrella Pro documented the action - you can watch their video of the event on our YouTube channel.

On November 28 and 29, dozens of local technology, communications and marketing professionals came together to donate their time to projects benefitting changemakers and peacebuilders around the world. Featuring projects from Libya, Jordan, Kenya, South Sudan and right here in Vancouver, our #RHoK4Peace hackathon was an unqualified success! With sponsor Axiom Zen, and support from OpenDataBC, the HiVE and Affinity Bridge, PeaceGeeks provided an opportunity for Vancouverites to put their skills and expertise to use for the benefit of grassroots organizations across the globe.

Our hard work hasn't gone unnoticed. CBC Vancouver published a piece on Services Advisor and our executive director, Renee Black, was interviewed about the app by Rick Cluff on CBC's Early Edition. Global News also covered the #RHoK4Peace hackathon - you can see their coverage here. We're excited for the opportunity to able to share our message! We've also recently been featured on CKNW and Vancouver's Co-op Radio.

Now it's December and we're into our final week of the #GiveItUp4Peace crowdfunding campaign. We've raised over $30,000 and our goal is $50,000. Thanks to a generous match donation from the Black Family Foundation, every dollar donated doubles its impact! And every dollar will be put toward PeaceGeeks projects. To date, weve helped more than 26 grassroots peacebuilders in 14 countries around the world. We plan to continue that work in 2016 and beyond. For more information on the campaign and how your contributions can make a difference, visit

Dec 6, 2015

PeaceTalks #29: Refugee Crisis and Media Hype

Guest Speaker:
Majd Agha, Shayna Plaut, Caroline Dailly, Zool Suleman
Nov 4, 2015
6:00 - 7:30PM
Hootsuite Offices

On September 2, 2015, the body of Alan Kurdi, a young Syrian boy, washed up on a Turkish beach. His body was photographed and the photo circulated worldwide.

In the coming weeks, a media blitz on the refugee crisis took the world by storm. Everyone was talking about the Syrian refugee crisis - what could be done, how individuals and governments could help, how the world could have turned a blind eye for so long.

But in the wake of all that coverage, what has changed? Did the media make a difference? Have we finally begun to give the biggest refugee situation since World War II the attention it deserves?

PeaceGeeksAmnesty International and Hootsuite present PeaceTalks #29: Refugee Crisis and Media Hype, a discussion of the refugee crisis and what can be done to effect real change.

Speakers include:

- Caroline Dailly, Manager at Immigrant Services Society of BC
- Zool Suleman, Immigration Lawyer & Policy Consultant
- Shayna Plaut, Simons Research Fellow, International Law & Human Security SFU
- Majd Agha, one of the first Syrian refugees to arrive in Vancouver

Thank You To:
Partnership With:
Nov 14, 2015
Category: PeaceTalks
Time 2:
6 PM

PeaceTalk #27: International Aid Accountability

Guest Speaker:
Nora Murad, Aid Watch Palestine - Co-Founder, Emily Houiellebeq, Engineers without Borders - Vancouer Chapter, Rebecca Mellet, CIDA (DFATD) - Former Head of Aid
Sep 9, 2015
6:00pm - 7.30pm
The Hive Vancouver

Aid Accountability is a complex and layered process. In the event of a natural or political disaster, aid donors pour millions of dollars to provide relief to those affected by these events. With various stakeholders involved - government, non-governmental organizations, aid recipients - needs get diluted by conflicting interests. While aid is a matter of life or death to many, effective and accountable aid can quickly recover many more lives and communities.

This PeaceTalk will detail what aid acountability is, who are the stakeholders, and how we can deliver more effective aid. Joining us will be Emma Houiellebecq from Engineers Without Borders, Vancouver Chapter, Rebecca Mellet - former CIDA (DFATD) Head of Aid responsible for emergency response to 8.0 earthquake in Peru, and Nora Murad - co-founder of AidWatch Palestine.

Thank You To:
Aug 19, 2015
Category: PeaceTalks
Time 2:
6 PM

PeaceTalk #24: Security, Surveillance & Human Rights

Guest Speaker:
David Christopher, Don Wright, Josh Paterson
Feb 11, 2015
6:00 - 7:30PM
HiVE Vancouver

Digital communications technologies have great benefits for freedom of expression and the right to information. Governments seek to spread their adoption because of the economic benefits they bring but at the same time they want to maintain control over them. Governments are increasingly adopting mass surveillance technologies to monitor social media and broader internet usage. Some governments use customized spyware systems to target activists, human rights defenders, journalists, demonstrators, NGOs and political opponents. In some countries, the Internet is substantially censored to prevent access to information, and discussion, of politically and culturally sensitive issues.

This panel will examine the ways the right to freedom of expression and the right to information are violated in the name of security. Topics for discussion will include internet and cellphone privacy, mass surveillance in Canada and beyond, and detecting government spyware.

Speaker Bio:

David Christopher
David Christopher is the Communications Manager of and blogs regularly for the organization. David is from the west of Ireland and holds a degree from Trinity College Dublin, where he studied History and Political Science. He worked in communications in New Zealand, Northern Ireland and Scotland before moving to Vancouver, Canada.

Don Wright
Don Wright is an activism coordinator with Amnesty International Canada, based at the Vancouver Office. Amnesty's global work is deeply rooted in defending freedom of expression and the full range of rights described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Josh Paterson
Josh Paterson joined the BCCLA as its Executive Director in January 2013. Josh’s legal career has focused on protecting some of the most marginalized people in Canada from human rights violations, civil liberties restrictions, discrimination and environmental injustice. Prior to joining BCCLA, he was the Aboriginal and Natural Resources Lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law, where he led that organization’s highly effective legal work protecting the rights of people in northern and coastal BC. Outside of his legal practice, he is a founding board member of the Vancouver Public Space Network, where he has served for several years as the coordinator for Surveillance and Security issues.

Event Video:
Thank You To:
Partnership With:
Jan 20, 2015
Category: PeaceTalks
Time 2:
6 PM

PeaceTalk #6: Learning The Hard Way

Guest Speaker:
Lara Rosenoff
Dec 5, 2012
6:00 7:30PM
W2 Media Cafe

Lara Rosenoff will present a photographic journal of her work and time in Northern Uganda since 2004. Her talk will critically examine the effectiveness of advocacy and interventions with which she has engaged during her time in the field. Join us at the W2 Media Cafe for a talk on her experiences with groups recovering from conflict in northern Uganda.

Speaker Bio
Lara has collaborated on numerous projects in and about Northern Uganda as artist, activist and lecturer since 2004.She most recently finished her MFA in Documentary Media in June 2009 with a project that follows one girl over 2 years in an internal displacement camp, all the while questioning her role of witness. She is currently continuing her work in the area as a PhD Candidate in Anthropology at The University of British Columbia, and her dissertation project will examine transformations in inter-generational knowledge transmissions and their effects on social repair after long-term conflict. Lara will be pursuing art-based research methods, collaborating with youth and the elderly towards new forms of representation and research of the worldviews of those living in areas of violent conflict. For more information about Lara, visit You can also check out one of her most recent projects at


Nov 14, 2012
Category: PeaceTalks
Time 2:
4 PM
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