Trudeau is exploiting the coronavirus crisis to silence free speech

Violating the sanctity of free speech unleashes a host of new possibilities for bad actors in government and threatens our ability to write articles like this one criticizing their actions.

According to recent statements made to CBC reporters by Dominic LeBlanc, the federal government is drafting new legislation to “punish” those responsible for spreading online “disinformation” about COVID-19 online. Though the specific terms of this legislation are not yet clear, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have deliberately made their intent publicly known and it is more important now than ever to speak up to pre-emptively end this catastrophic assault on free speech in Canada.

The first thing that occurred to me when I heard about this plan is the obvious fact that this government feels it is a better use of their time and energy to police online rabble rousers than to come up with practical solutions for the pressing problems facing Canadians during this national crisis. We are facing one of the most economically and socially destabilizing events since World War II, but instead of focusing on pertinent threats it has dedicated crucial staffing resources and meeting time to this issue.

Justin Trudeau’s handpicked Privy Council, Mr. LeBlanc, must explain to the countless Canadian businesses, families, and individuals facing truly existential and time-sensitive challenges why this has been a top priority for his office and this government. With record high unemployment, struggling capital markets, and urgent healthcare supply and infrastructure demands, non-violent online discourse should be the last priority of this government; regardless of how fictitious the content is.

This planned legislation is a display of shameless audacity on behalf of the Liberals and NDP supporters like Charlie Angus. Attacking Canadians free speech rights during a national crisis is an unacceptable abuse of public trust, and it adds insult to injury to an already struggling and concerned citizenry. Canadians everywhere are deeply concerned about their personal finances, keeping their families safe from this virus, and the obvious challenges posed by self-isolation. It is utterly deplorable that they now have to worry about a tyrannical federal government encroaching on their free speech rights.

This comes not long after the Liberals attempted to grant themselves unprecedented spending powers without parliamentary oversight until the end of 2021, another attempt at a shameless power grab in the midst of a crisis. The very institution that should fight to uphold our cherished civil liberties now seems to be in the business of slowly undermining them, and that makes me concerned about the future of our country.

Now is not the time for cheap shot partisan attacks and political theatre, but a time for unity across all parties. This is about defending the freedoms that our brave men and women in uniform have given their lives for on countless occasions. This is about protecting one of the most important freedoms that exist in our democracy. Violating the sanctity of free speech unleashes a host of new possibilities for bad actors in government and threatens our ability to write articles like this one criticizing their actions.

Justin Trudeau has said in the past that he admires China’s basic dictatorship, a place where the internet is heavily policed and the outside world is firewalled from the eyes of Chinese people; but Canadians reject this dark vision of the future and will not stand for this brazen assault on our rights. Justin Trudeau must stop taking plays out of the Chinese Communist Party playbook and refocus any and all available resources to rebuild our economy and protect our citizens from this virus. During this unprecedented crisis we are all on team Canada, but there is nothing Canadian about censoring free speech. Especially not while we face the greatest crisis of a generation.

Warren Steinley is a Conservative MP for Regina-Lewvan