Ottawa discussing next steps after magazine spreading COVID misinformation received funding

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says his department is discussing next steps after it gave funds to a magazine spreading vaccine misinformation.

B.C.-based Common Ground received money from Canadian Heritage, which is tasked with fighting misinformation

Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez takes part in a press conference on Feb. 2, 2022 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says his department is discussing next steps after it gave funds to a magazine spreading vaccine misinformation.

As CBC News reported last week, the Department of Canadian Heritage — which helps to oversee the government's response to a rising tide of false information online — confirmed it provided more than $17,000 to Common Ground magazine through a special program of the Canada Periodical Fund intended to help publications weather the pandemic.

The B.C.-based wellness magazine has been publishing unsubstantiated claims that COVID-19 vaccines could cause cancer in children and that ivermectin — a drug used to rid livestock of parasites that is sometimes prescribed to humans — can reduce COVID-19 mortality.

Health Canada says there is no evidence to suggest ivermectin prevents or treats COVID-19 and warns that consuming it could lead to "potential serious health dangers."

"We are having discussions internally because there's no way that Canada Heritage will support any type of disinformation," Rodriguez said Wednesday while announcing support for organizations helping to counter disinformation.

The Canada Periodical Fund was set up to help publications "overcome market disadvantages and continue to provide Canadian readers with the content they choose to read," says a government website.

The minister said the fund isn't on the chopping block.

"It helps our magazines and so many people working in that field," Rodriguez said.

The minister was in Toronto launching a call for proposals for $2.5 million in initiatives to help people identify misinformation and disinformation online.

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