A recent poll funded by the Privy Council has found that 58 percent of Canadians oppose federal censorship of the internet, according to Blacklock's Reporter.
When asked whether they agreed with the statement "[the] government should restrict access to the internet and social media to combat the spread of misinformation about Covid-19," 12 percent of Canadians said they "disagree" while 46 percent said that they "strongly disagree."
Only four percent of Canadians said that they "strongly agree" with the statement.
The poll also found that a majority of Canadians do not trust traditional media sources for information regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
The Privy Council paid nearly $250,000 to the pollster Léger to conduct the research as the government considers the implementation of new online speech regulations surrounding non-criminal "misinformation" and "hate speech."
The findings directly contradict claims made by Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, who recently argued that "a very high proportion of Canadians" support such censorship of the internet.
"A very high proportion of Canadians are asking the government to step in," Guilbeault has claimed. "It is very clear we will act, and we will soon table a bill."
While the proposed regulation of online speech has not yet been made public, Guilbeault has said that it will target "views that target communities, put people’s safety at risk, and undermine Canada’s social cohesion"
Some have suggested that the Liberal plan amounts to the revival of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which prohibited online communication which is "likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt."
The controversial law received significant backlash in the later years of its existence after a series of high-profile cases involving the law resulted in public outcry. Opponents of the law argued that it placed arbitrary non-criminal restrictions on the rights of Canadians to express themselves, that the subsequent trials alleged violators received before Canadian human rights tribunals were unfair, and that truth was not an adequate defense against receiving punishment under the rule.
The Harper government ultimately repealed the rule in 2013.
However, there has been a recent push by some activists to reintroduce such regulation, arguing that it is necessary to combat online hate speech. Former Simon Wiesenthal Centre CEO Avi Benlolo wrote a piece for the Montreal Gazette where he suggested that the rule needs to be reintroduced. Benlolo cited "teenagers dressed up like concentration camp prisoners" as an example of hateful speech which must be prohibited, and laid praise upon Facebook and Twitter for their platforms' hate speech rules.
He further called upon the Canadian government to "penalize service providers with heavy fines if they do not remove hate speech" and to "set up an office to monitor the internet... and educate the public."