Canada's heritage department will detail internet censorship rules Thursday to be enforced under a bill that has yet to pass Parliament.
Legal but hurtful content deemed to "undermine Canada’s social cohesion or democracy" will be banned, reported Blacklock's. Twitter posts are "undermining Canada’s democracy," said Canada’s Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault previously in a briefing note, who is urging regulation of hurtful comments for "a truly democratic debate."
"This content steals and damages lives," wrote the staff. "It intimidates and obscures valuable voices, preventing a truly democratic debate."
Today's announcement released technical documents "on a proposed approach to combat harmful content online." Hate speech is already outlawed under the 1970 amendments to the Criminal Code.
Cabinet on June 23 introduced Bill C-36, An Act To Amend The Criminal Code that would allow the Canadian Human Rights Commission to investigate Facebook comments, blog posts, tweets or other content deemed to promote "detestation or vilification." Penalties include $70,000 fines.
"Our objective is to ensure more accountability and transparency from online platforms while respecting the Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms," said the June 16 briefing note Regulation Of Social Media Platforms. "The mandate of the Department of Canadian Heritage includes the promotion of a greater understanding of human rights."
Guilbeault, in an earlier Inquiry Of Ministry, tabled in the Commons, acknowledged his office was not contacted by any member of the general public in support of first-ever federal regulation of internet content. "How many pieces of correspondence asked for more internet censorship or regulation?" asked the Inquiry. "The Department of Canadian Heritage’s Ministerial Correspondence Secretariat has not received any," replied the staff.
Joanna Baron, Executive Director to the Canadian Constitution Foundation, said the federal government shared details about the enforcement of its "Online Harms Bill" (C-36) and found it to be as "bloated and overbroad as we feared."
"Online take-down requirements are proposed, with 24 hours for platforms to remove "five categories of harmful content,"" said Baron "There is also a mechanism for platforms to report the content to police and CSIS."
Bill C-36 revived a section of the Canadian Human Rights Act repealed by Parliament in 2013. Section 13 of the Act banned internet comments deemed likely to expose a person to "hatred or contempt."
The law was struck after Muslim groups repeatedly filed unsuccessful human rights complaints about a 2007 online commentary at Maclean’s magazine. The article The Future Belongs To Islam by author Mark Steyn said, "native populations are ageing and fading and being supplanted remorselessly by a young Muslim demographic." Complaints were rejected by human rights commissions in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.
"The idea of bureaucrats once again getting into this business is deeply disturbing," Steyn said in 2019 testimony at the Commons justice committee. "They didn’t have enough work last time."
"Would you agree with the article you wrote in Maclean’s where you stated, ‘It’s the end of the world as we’ve known it,’ would you agree that’s alarmist, that’s obnoxious?" asked Liberal MP Ali Ehsassi. "I was taken to three human rights tribunals, and I won, sir," replied Steyn.
"I am not here, sir, to justify to you words I have used," said Steyn. "You’re doing what is perhaps the most repulsive aspect of this committee, which is trying to force people to deny certain things they said five, ten, fifteen years ago as if there is only one correct position on Islam, on immigration, on climate change, on transgender bathrooms, on same-sex marriage. We cannot keep going on saying, ‘This is the correct line, and if you’re not willing to sign onto that, you’re a hater.’"
"When I was elected to Parliament, I received death threats, multiple death threats," said New Democrat MP Randall Garrison, who is gay. "When you minimize the impact of hate speech on people’s daily lives, I think you miss the entire point of these hearings. The entire point of these hearings is not about criminalizing speech. It’s about deciding, in a modern society where social media have become the public square, where do we draw the line?"
Steyn replied he also received death threats. "There are all kinds of people who get death threats, and if the alternative is surrendering our liberty over death threats, to hell with that, sir," said Steyn.
"Again, we already have Criminal Code provisions against hate speech, counselling suicide, etc.," said Baron: "All of this regulatory apparatus is purely to create a low-threshold civil remedy, with expanded CSIS powers as a creepy bonus."