PEI

Social media abuse will happen — panel will discuss how to deal with it

The P.E.I. Coalition for Women in Government is sponsoring a panel discussion Thursday night about gender-based cyberviolence, which one panelist says is sadly inevitable these days.

Joanne Bernard faced regular abuse when she was a cabinet minister

Joanne Bernard served in the Nova Scotia Legislature for three and a half years. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

The P.E.I. Coalition for Women in Government is sponsoring a panel discussion Thursday night about gender-based cyberviolence, which one panelist says is sadly inevitable these days.

"I tell young women go in, eyes wide open, understand that this is going to happen to you in some way, shape or form, and you need to have a network of support around you to be able to deal with it," said Joanne Bernard, who served three and a half years as an MLA in Nova Scotia.

Bernard faced regular abuse while serving as a cabinet minister — about her weight, about her being a lesbian — abuse that sometimes descended into death threats.

"I once got a threat on the phone. He left a message that he was going to come down and shoot me, and stand over my fat body and piss on me," she said.

Bernard said she would like to see the authors of online abuse be called out, something she did regularly when she was in office. She'd also like media companies to be more proactive about taking down abusive comments.

Becka Viau will join Joanne Bernard on the panel. (CBC)

But Bernard said the work she did as community services minister was worth it. She said she wouldn't trade away any minute of her time in office, despite the fact that the abuse she suffered led to the re-emergence of an eating disorder.

"I'm not going to let people who sit behind a computer anonymously, determine what my public service is going to be," she said.

Bernard will be joined on the panel by political candidate Becka Viau and digital literacy expert Shanly Dixon. The event will be at UPEI's McDougall Hall Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning

now