Major new Canadian legislation would penalize online hate at risk of censorship

Feb 27, 2024 | Political News

The Canadian government has introduced legislation proposing new regulatory bodies and heavier sentences to combat online abuse, a proposal backed by some U.S. Big Tech firms with major implications for free speech.

Canadian Justice Minister Arif Virani on Monday introduced the Online Harms Act, also known as Bill C-63, to Canada’s legislature for consideration. The act, which has relatively high odds of passage given the Liberal Party’s control of the government, has been presented as a tool for combatting online abuse, forcing Big Tech companies to take additional actions to report child pornography and creating stronger laws for protecting Canadians from hatred online.

“We cannot tolerate anarchy on the internet,” Virani said at a press conference presenting the Online Harms Act. “The safety, the mental health, and even the lives of our kids and our most vulnerable are at stake.”

The Online Harms Act would amend the country’s Criminal Code to increase sentences for spreading hate online and would modify the law to establish a separate offense for crimes motivated by hate. The Canadian Human Rights Act would be amended to allow complaints about online hate to be filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.