Vice President's Message

It’s time for civility, now more than ever

Publication Date

Friday, February 10, 2017 - 9:45am

Dear friends,

Hate speech is out of control.

Everywhere you turn these days, people are saying horrifying things – evil things. It’s like basic human decency has just evaporated. And it seems like it’s happening everywhere.

I’m no supporter of Premier Kathleen Wynne, but the abuse she faces on social media is disgusting. She’s being attacked because she’s a woman. Because she’s a lesbian. Because she’s got a few wrinkles. It makes me sick.

Recently, the CBC reported on the abuse slung at Canada’s female leaders over Twitter. This behaviour used to be called “trolling.” Some people call it “playing devil’s advocate.” But let’s get something straight: it is downright harassment. And it is wrong.

Now, I’m a correctional officer; I’ve been threatened lots of times. But most of the people who’ve threatened me have had the guts to do it to my face. Yet today, with social media, online trolls don’t fear the consequences of their words.

It’s almost like social media users are detached from their human bodies. Maybe they have a decent job, make decent money in real life; maybe they go to the gym, have a family, and watch re-runs of Seinfeld. But on social media, they can be anybody they want to be. They become quasi-fictional characters, and they seem to think everybody else is, too.

So they think nothing of spitting hatred at public figures.

I understand that people have things to be angry about. In fact, the default emotion today seems to be anger, and with social media, people have plenty of outlets to release their frustrations.  But has social media made us all mean?

Can’t get what you want? Try yelling. Try hatred. Try violence.

On January 29, a man in Quebec (I won’t name him) killed six innocent men, just because they were Muslim. That’s what happens when we let hatred become normal. Words become weapons, and weapons can kill.

Some of history’s worst atrocities began with words – words from charismatic speakers who knew how to tap into people’s deepest fears and prejudices. We are in such a scary time again.

We need to fight for the return of civil discourse, or we will all be in serious trouble. We can’t let hate speech go unchallenged.

When you hear it, speak against it. I will.

In solidarity,

Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer, OPSEU

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