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Parti Quebecois urges Legault government to stop 'procrastinating' on screen time commission


The Parti Quebecois (PQ) says François Legault's government needs to stop "procrastinating" and launch its special commission on young people's screen time this summer.

"We're already mired in several months of denial (...) We won't waste another year. (...) The health of young people is at stake," said PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon in an interview on Monday.

On Saturday, at his party's general council in Saint-Hyacinthe, Legault changed course, calling social media "virtual pushers."

Since the beginning of the year, he had rejected and even ridiculed several PQ proposals, which were raising alarms about screens' impact on young people's health.

Following a resolution passed by his party on Saturday, the premier proposed referring the subject to a special cross-party commission.

In his view, it would be similar to the commission that dealt with the thorny issue of medical aid in dying (MAID).

Transpartisan commissions "can last a year and a half," worries St-Pierre Plamondon.

"We congratulate the premier on his progress, (...) but we'd hate to see the subject dragged out when research has been done all over the world," he said. "What we're specifically asking is that the commission be completed before the end of the next parliamentary session and that the recommendations also be completed."

The PQ leader is calling for new measures in schools in time for the return of the holiday season in January 2025.

In his view, the commission should take no more than four months to complete its work.

"Let's remember that in France, they held a commission of this nature in just one month and the changes were put into effect immediately afterwards," said St-Pierre Plamondon. "If we hadn't procrastinated and laughed at the Parti Québécois when we brought this subject up at the beginning of the year, we could have aimed for changes for the start of the school year in September 2024.

"Work has already been done, including a 142-page report in France that is very credible, very thorough," according to the PQ leader.

He proposes bringing in French experts, "who have already done all the work, (...) as well as those in Quebec. Doctors Mélissa Généreux, Jean-François Chicoine and chief scientist Rémi Quirion have already done work."

More and more studies are showing that the use of screens by young people can have harmful consequences for their physical and mental health.

In May 2023, the U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, stated that social networking is "driving a national crisis in youth mental health."

In a letter he sent to the leaders of the opposition parties on Saturday, Legault noted that "we are faced with two concomitant phenomena: (...) screens and social media."

He proposes that the commission study: young people's screen time, supervision measures, particularly at school, access to social networks, cyberbullying and minors' access to pornography on the web.

"I believe that such an exercise would promote greater awareness among the general population," he wrote.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 27, 2024. Top Stories

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