A lively crowd gathered outside François Legault’s office in downtown Montreal in mid-July to send a message to the Quebec premier: His government cannot force them to wear masks in indoor public spaces to fight the spread of COVID 19.
“Long live freedom without a mask,” read one sign at the rally, which drew several dozen people. “My body, my choice” read another, alongside a drawing of a medical mask with a line across it.
The anti-mask movement is not unique to Quebec, nor are masks the only source of conflict in the country when it comes to public health directives around the novel coronavirus. But the issue is one of several at the heart of a growing online movement of disinformation around the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada.
Researchers say conspiracy theories about COVID-19 are spreading at an alarming rate across the country — and they warn misinformation shared online may lead to devastating consequences and push Canadians to shun important safety measures.
“I think that people should be enormously concerned,” said Aengus Bridgman, a PhD candidate in political science at McGill University and co-author of a study published last month on COVID-19 misinformation and its impact on public health.
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