Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer doctor Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s chief public health doctor says in the age of social media, fake news about the COVID-19 pandemic has been spreading faster than the virus itself. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer doctor Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s chief public health doctor says in the age of social media, fake news about the COVID-19 pandemic has been spreading faster than the virus itself. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

VIDEO: Fake news creates serious issues for battling pandemic, chief public health doc says

Both Tam and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to be responsible about the information they share

Canada’s chief public health doctor is worried about the amount of false information being floated about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Theresa Tam says when false information is spread — either intentionally or not — it does not help public health officials ensure the public has the information they need to make the right choices.

“As I reflect on the unprecedented pandemic that we have, there’s also I think the pandemic that’s occurred in the age of social media, and many different ways in which information is spread faster than the virus itself,” Tam said Tuesday at one of her regular news conferences on Parliament Hill.

Both Tam and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to be responsible about the information they share by verifying it first with multiple and official sources.

“When you look at a piece of information, ask a number of questions, including exactly where this has come from,” said Tam. “Definitely ask yourself this question before you forward the information to someone else.”

Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed they respond frequently to queries about fake news. Some of it arises in other countries and is picked up here, sometimes it’s Canada-specific.

Trudeau said some of it comes from “foreign actors trying to disrupt successful democracies, others are people with extremist agendas within our countries trying to weaken people’s confidence in our institutions and our democracy.”

In many cases it has a real impact. A survey by health authorities in Quebec in August found about one-quarter of people in that province believed COVID-19 was created in a laboratory on purpose and a third felt the government was hiding things about the pandemic.

Other surveys have found people who believed conspiracy theories about the virus’s origins were less likely to follow public health advice about wearing masks, physical distancing and limiting contacts.

Trudeau said he was asked by a student in a recent forum about “COVID internment camps.”

“I had to explain that as we consume increasing amounts and various sources of information online and around us, we need to continue to be attentive to source, we need to continue to be attentive to comparing various reports and looking for trusted sources like Dr. Tam, like regional public health authorities, to tell the truth,” Trudeau said. “We need to hold together and resist people who would sow chaos within our communities (and) our democracy.”

The internment camps claim arose recently after Health Canada posted a request for information online seeking a business that might be able to help manage the government’s quarantine sites.

Health Canada has managed 11 quarantine sites in nine cities for travellers arriving from abroad who don’t have suitable places to quarantine, such as someone who lives with a senior citizen and whose home doesn’t have space to isolate from the high-risk individual for two weeks.

The department is now potentially looking for a third-party operator to manage quarantine sites.

Cole Davidson, press secretary for Health Minister Patty Hajdu, said the claims that quarantine sites are Canadian internment camps for people with COVID-19, are absolutely false.

“These emails and social media posts about ‘isolation camps’ are an example of false information being used to play on fears over a public health issue,” Davidson said. “Disinformation like this is intended to deceive Canadians and cause fear and confusion.”

Another claim floating around currently is that the federal government is making up the pandemic in a bid to generate public support for both a universal guaranteed income, and to relieve all household and consumer debt in Canada.

A spokesman for Trudeau said that claim has no basis in reality.

READ MORE: Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusfake newsvideo

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A 2019 photo of the site of what is now The Cove Shelter, which is operated by Surrey Urban Mission Society. Crews were working inside of this corner unit just days before it officially opened. (File photo: Lauren Collins)
Fraser Health declares COVID-19 outbreak at Surrey shelter as 17 people test positive

SUMS executive director says ‘it’s a group that we really have to work hard to protect’

South Surrey’s Kevin McAlpin is hoping to reunite this 50-year-old wedding ring with its rightful owner. (Contributed photo)
Owner of 50-year-old wedding band found near Peace Arch Park sought

Recovered ring ‘is important to somebody,’ says finder

These three orbs in a triangular formation were spotted in the skies above Abbotsford/Aldergrove on Dec. 1. (YouTube)
VIDEO: Alleged UFO sighting in Abbotsford/Aldergrove

Footage from Dec. 1 shows three orbs in triangle formation in the skies

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Cops converge in a Marshall Road parking lot on Thursday afternoon following a reported police incident. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Federal offender escapes, gets shot at and is taken back into custody in Abbotsford

Several branches of law enforcement find escapee a short distance from where he fled

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

An RCMP officer confers with military rescuers outside their Cormorant helicopter near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
Good Samaritan helped Kootenay police nab, rescue suspect which drew armed forces response

Midway RCMP said a Good Samaritan helped track the suspect, then brought the arresting officer dry socks

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

Most Read