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Canadian Justice Minister Arif Virani answers reportersScreenshot/CPAC

Tell your MP and Senators to oppose ‘online harms’ bill – Send a message today

OTTAWA, Ontario (LifeSiteNews) — Canada’s Justice Minister Arif Virani is citing growing tensions in Canada to push legislation restricting free speech by censoring so-called “online harms.” 

Prior to a November 21 Cabinet meeting, Virani told media that it is clear legislation is needed to ban certain internet content given the shootings and attacks committed in Canada since the Israel-Hamas war broke out. He failed to provide details regarding what would be censored.    

“I think what we’ve been hearing from communities is that, given the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, the online hatred is spreading repeatedly online and it’s manifesting in terms of actual violence in Canada,” he said.  

“We’ve had attacks this weekend in Toronto. We’ve had shootings at schools in Quebec,” Virani continued, apparently referring to recent gunfire outside Jewish schools in Montreal and to assaults on Ontario Muslims. 

In recent weeks, Jewish schools in Canada have increasingly become targets for pro-Palestine protestors. On November 12, Montreal’s Yeshiva Gedola school was fired upon for the second time. In early November, both this school and another Jewish school pleaded for help after shots were fired at their buildings after hours. Last week, police investigated a bomb threat at Toronto’s Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy. 

There have also been recent anti-Muslim attacks in Toronto. Last week 28-year-old Chandler Marshall allegedly assaulted worshippers in a Toronto mosque, a taxi driver, and a woman wearing distinctive Islamic dress.  

“That’s not what we need in this country, and I think an online hate bill can help to address that,” Virani declared.  

“It is an absolute priority for me and many other Cabinet ministers,” he said. 

Virani, who was recently appointed to his position by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, did not say when the bill would be passed but told media it would happen “as soon as possible.” 

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The 2021 bill was introduced by Canada’s then-Justice Minister David Lametti. Bill C-36 was framed as “an Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act and to make related amendments to another Act (hate propaganda, hate crimes and hate speech).”   

It was blasted as a controversial “hate speech” law that would give police the power to “do something” about unpopular opinions online. Free speech advocates feared that, if the legislation passed, complainants would target bloggers and social media users for speaking their minds.  

Bill C-36 included text to amend Canada’s Criminal Code and Human Rights Act to define “hatred” as “the emotion that involves detestation or vilification and that is stronger than dislike or disdain (haine).”  

If passed, the bill would theoretically allow a tribunal to judge anyone who has a complaint of online “hate” leveled against them, even if he has not committed a crime. If found guilty, the person would be in violation of the new law and could face fines of $70,000 as well as house arrest.  

Bill C-36 would also resurrect Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Section 13 was a controversial hate speech law under the Human Rights Act that was abolished in 2013.  

Virani made similar comments in October when he justified the concept of the yet to be introduced law by saying that Canada needs ‘a safe and secure digital environment as much as we need safe streets in our communities.’ 

He asserted that while Canada has “freedom of expression on one hand, which creates a vibrant democracy and allows us to differentiate ourselves from other parts of the world,” on the other hand, the government has gotten “pressure to ensure that when people are communicating online, they’re not actually targeting groups, they’re not promoting or vilifying groups, promoting hatred or violence against them.”  

While the Trudeau government failed to pass Bill C-36, they managed to pass bills C-11 and C-18, both of which restricted free speech over the internet.  

Bill C-11, or the Online Streaming Act, became law earlier this year and now mandates that Canada’s broadcast regulator the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) oversee regulating online content on platforms such as YouTube and Netflix to ensure that such platforms are promoting content in accordance with a variety of its guidelines.  

Recently, Canadian law professor Dr. Michael Geist warned that new powers granted to Canada’s broadcast regulator via Bill C-11 will not stop at “Web Giants” but will lead to the government going after “news sites” and other “online” video sites as well.  

Trudeau’s other internet censorship law, Bill C-18, the Online News Act, was passed by the Senate in June.    

This law mandates that Big Tech companies pay to publish Canadians content on their platforms. As a result, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has blocked all access to news content in Canada, while Google has promised to do the same rather than pay the fees laid out in the new legislation.   

Critics of Trudeau’s recent laws, such as tech mogul Elon Musk, have said it shows that “Trudeau is trying to crush free speech in Canada.”   

Musk made the comments after the CRTC announced that due to new powers granted to it via the Online Streaming Act, it has now mandated that certain online streaming services and podcasters “register” with the government by November 28, 2023.  

READ: Canadian Human Rights Commission mocked for attacking Christmas as form of ‘colonialism’

Tell your MP and Senators to oppose ‘online harms’ bill – Send a message today