The debates surrounding Bill C-18 aimed at regulating digital platforms have highlighted the close ties that unite our democratic institutions to the free circulation of facts and ideas, of which the news media constitute the essential link. A red line was crossed in recent weeks when Meta decided to no longer distribute Canadian media on its platforms. Faced with such an attempt to intimidate a democratically elected government, and faced with the muzzling of our media by private interests, Canadian philanthropy can no longer remain silent.

For more than a decade, faced with the collapse of their revenues monopolized by foreign platforms such as Meta or Google, news media newsrooms have been shrinking and disappearing one after the other, creating information deserts in where disinformation and conspiracy theories proliferate.

This misinformation is amplified by these same platforms in order to maximize the engagement of their users, and thus their profitability.

Over the past decade, many philanthropic actors have decided to tackle systemic issues such as socioeconomic inequalities, the climate crisis, racism or even reconciliation with indigenous peoples, to name just a few. some. This change in direction is based on the shift from traditional philanthropy, which seeks to alleviate social and environmental problems, towards transformative philanthropy which seeks to address the systemic causes of social or environmental issues.

These systemic issues call for collective solutions, which are based on scientific analysis, awareness-raising and the creation of consensus within the public, as well as on advocacy actions, in particular to give a voice to those who do not. have not, and ultimately to obtain legislative, fiscal or regulatory interventions aimed at accomplishing the necessary social, economic or environmental transformations.

To achieve its goals, philanthropy must intervene in each of the links in this chain of change, and this is why it must be able to count on strong democratic institutions, supported by the free circulation of ideas and by spaces for deliberation fueled by science and reliable information. Anything that hinders the free circulation of facts or that undermines public confidence in science or institutions simultaneously erodes the capacity for action of philanthropic actors and the community and associative environment that they support.

This is why it is imperative and urgent that philanthropic actors intervene in support of the information media, including local and alternative media which contribute to the richness and democratic diversity by giving a voice to populations and points of view often ignored.

The free flow of information and a vigorous, well-funded media are at the heart of this infrastructure.

Let’s imagine the other possibility that we already see emerging and which could become irreversible within a few years if we do not act vigorously: information controlled by a few private algorithms that spread disinformation, combined with a generalized loss of trust towards science and democracy, and to a rise in authoritarianism. Is this a scenario favorable to solving the climate crisis, the fair redistribution of wealth and the elimination of racism and discrimination? To ask the question, is to answer it. Our ability to act for the common good is at stake. The time has come for philanthropy to act. This starts with substantial support, both financial and moral, for the Canadian media in their battle to continue to offer free and independent information.