Rebuilding the Public Square

Rebuilding the Public Square is a national comprehensive study that aims to examine what is driving Canada apart online and how we can bring people back together.

Misinformation is rapidly spreading yet more and more Canadians are turning to social media platforms as their primary source for news and information. These platforms have provided Canadians with new tools to engage with each other and public affairs, but the digital environment has influenced the nature of this engagement in ways that are not yet fully understood. 

Rebuilding the Public Square is investigating the issues facing Canadians in the digital world, offering potential solutions to guide policy-making, and giving Canadians the tools they need to rebuild trust in our digital public square and ensure that these platforms have a positive impact on our society.

Through mixed-method research of focus groups and a nationally representative survey of 3,000 Canadians, Rebuilding the Public Square will address three important issues as it relates to the digital public square:

  1. Digital News Literacy

  2. Effects on Political Attitudes, Behaviours and Polarization

  3. Attitudes toward Regulation of Social Media Platforms

We are dedicated to getting our findings into the hands of Canadians and using them to inform the development of digital literacy tools and training in partnership with the Democratic Engagement Exchange. The project will aim to activate new leaders and rebuild trust in institutions by creating opportunities to make the findings accessible to a wide range of communities through:

  • convening forums for established and new leaders to engage with and debate how best to rebuild the public square online

  • developing and sharing online and print multilingual materials and tools for digital and civic literacy, including how to spot “fake news” and be an effective and engaged digital citizen

  • providing training, marketing, and support to over 1,000 national, regional and local community-based organizations to adopt these tools in their civic engagement work leading up the federal election

  • evaluating the impact on Canadians’ attitudes and behaviours accessing these tools


This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario.