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Paddleboard Mental Health advocate bullied after visiting Parliament Hill

Local Durham Mental Health advocate bullied after posting photo of him with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Mike Shoreman

A mental health advocate is speaking out after he claims he was subjected to bullying after meeting with the prime minister earlier this week.

Whitby, Ont. resident Mike Shoreman was being recognized for his feat of paddle-boarding across the five great lakes back in 2022, to raise awareness for mental health.

But when he posted a photo of himself and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the advocate was hit with a tidal wave of negativity.

“And then the comments just started coming, and messages,” said Shoreman in disbelief at the incident.

“There was a lot of hate, and a lot of vitriol.”

Shoreman was meeting with Trudeau to be commended for his tireless work on advocacy for mental health, particularly his feat of becoming the first person with a disability to cross the Great Lakes.

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However, the glory of being recognized quickly turned sour.

“People called me a pedophile … for standing next to the prime minister,” Shoreman said.

“People called me awful things, saying, ‘You’re disgusting,’ ‘You’re vile,’ and, ‘You’re deranged.'”

Some tweets directed at him asked if he was a ‘pedophile or a Chinese spy.’ Another told him to ‘get a life, if this is his highlight in life.’

Shoreman, who is a champion for getting in front of mental health, says bullying is the epitome of what can cause mental health issues.

“Bullying is attached, and bullying is a huge part of mental health. People take their lives over bullying.”

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The trip to parliament was a proud moment for him, after going against all odds in life and in the water. He was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called Ramsay Hunt syndrome back in 2018. The condition results in the loss of mobility and speech, and other neurological impacts.

Shoreman, who was a professional paddleboarder, was told he would never be able to board again. However, following months of rehabilitation, he set out on a mission to paddle the lakes to prove to himself — but also to raise money and awareness for mental health.

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“I was sent an invitation to have the work of my team recognized,” he said.

“And the mental health of Canadians recognized is an important thing.”

Whitby Mayor Elizabeth Roy, who is one of his many supporters, was shocked to see the response.

In what was an emotional moment, the mayor hugged Shoreman during the interview with Global News.

“For him to be attacked for what he has been recognized for, and what he has achieved… It’s uncalled for. It’s completely uncalled for,” Roy said.

Member of Parliament for Whitby, Ryan Turnbull, was also at the meeting with Trudeau. He was appalled to see the onslaught of hate that the mental health advocate saw after posting the photo.

“The fact that he’s being subjected to online hate is unacceptable. I hope we all stand in solidarity,” said Turnbull in a video recorded for Shoreman.

“It breaks my heart to think that someone who has overcome the challenges he lives with every day, living with Ramsay Hunt syndrome was experiencing this.”

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When Shoreman set out to cross the lakes, it was perseverance that helped him achieve the feat. The Hamilton native said it took him the summer to complete the task, after attempting it the year before. But the advocate stuck to it and made the final trek across the final stretch — Lake Ontario, a 52-kilometre journey.

His efforts raised awareness and helped fundraise more than $60,000 for youth mental health organization, jack.org

And that is what is most troubling for Shoreman: the fact his trip and continued efforts have nothing to do with what political party is in power.

“It’s not political. The mental of Canadians it not political,” said Shoreman.

Click to play video: 'A round-trip paddleboard across Lake Ontario for the Great Lakes'
A round-trip paddleboard across Lake Ontario for the Great Lakes

“In fact, what really is incredible is I had the ability to bring in support across all party lines.”

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That’s something Conservative Member of Parliament for Oshawa, Colin Carrie, agrees with.

“I commend Mike for doing what he is doing, and unfortunately sometimes these trolls online, they’re bullies,” says Carrie.

“There’s no place for anyone that does something like this. This is a human issue and not a political issue.”

And although the hate was daunting, he says the outpouring of support outweighed the vitriol. And that drives him to work harder.

“It means a lot and it sends a huge message to the people that did this,” he said.

“It definitely motivates me to keep going.”

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