Featured Image
Attorney General and Justice Minister Arif ViraniArif Virani / YouTube

OTTAWA, Ontario (LifeSiteNews) — Canada’s Justice Minister Arif Virani has promised to introduce so-called “online harms” legislation “as soon as possible,” spurring fears that this may mean the revival of a lapsed bill from 2021 which looked to target free speech by banning certain legal internet content. 

On Monday at a press conference dealing with antisemitism in light of the Israel-Hamas war, Virani, who was recently appointed to his position by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, claimed that Canada needs “a safe and secure digital environment as much as we need safe streets in our communities.” 

Virani made no promise as to when this new legislation would come, but did say, “I’m trying to make sure we see it as soon as possible.” 

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.” 

This is not the first time the Liberals have hinted at their intention to revive the lapsed 2021 bill, a bill which drew heavy criticism from conservatives. 

In June of 2021, Canada’s then-Justice Minister David Lametti introduced Bill 36, “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 online “hate.” 

It was feared that if passed, it 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. 

While this bill never became law, two other Trudeau bills dealing with freedom as it relates to the internet have become law.  

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, 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.