Trudeau gov’t prepares legislation to control what’s acceptable speech on Facebook, Twitter
OTTAWA, January 19, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is crafting legislation that, if approved by Parliament, will make it illegal for social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to host content that the government deems illegal.
The legislation will likely involve, according to the Globe and Mail, the creation of a new government regulator, what in Orwellian terms may prove to be a kind of “Ministry of Truth.” It is unclear how such legislation will square with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that “guarantees” to Canadians “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.”
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The Globe and Mail reported Jan. 18 that the “federal government is making final revisions to its plans to act against online hate and harassment on social media platforms in light of the deadly U.S. Capitol Hill riots, and its proposed measures will be presented to cabinet in the coming weeks.”
“If approved by cabinet, the Canadian legislation could be introduced in Parliament as soon as February or March. The legislation is expected to be influenced by measures already in place in other countries, such as Germany, which requires social-media platforms to remove illegal content under tight deadlines and the threat of financial penalties.”
Trudeau outlined his plans to regulate social media in Canada in a Jan. 15 “mandate letter” to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair. Trudeau mandated Blair to “implement on a priority basis” a number of commitments, one of which included working with Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault and Justice Minister David Lametti to “take action on combatting hate groups and online hate and harassment, ideologically motivated violent extremism, and terrorist organizations, including to ensure the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service are equipped to combat this growing threat.”
“You will be supported in this work by the Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development and the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry,” the mandate letter stated.
Previously in the letter, Trudeau told Blair that he must “ensure that Canadians have the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe.”
“Now more than ever, Canadians are relying on journalists and journalism for accurate and timely news, especially in the face of a concerning spread of misinformation. I expect you to foster a professional and respectful relationship with journalists to ensure that Canadians have the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe,” the letter stated.
Liberal Member of Parliament Arif Virani, who is parliamentary secretary to Justice Minister Lametti and who was responsible for consultations on the proposed legislation, told the Globe and Mail that now is the time for government to regulate social media.
“There is a sense of greater urgency,” he said. “Obviously what happened in the United States … really has put this back at the forefront of people’s minds. But it’s not as if this is just a uniquely American phenomenon.”
Canadian Heritage Minister Guilbeault was originally mandated by Trudeau in 2019 to “create new regulations for social media platforms, starting with a requirement that all platforms remove illegal content, including hate speech, within 24 hours or face significant penalties. This should include other online harms such as radicalization, incitement to violence, exploitation of children, or creation or distribution of terrorist propaganda.”
According to a recent briefing note from Guilbeault’s department, the Liberal government will use a “comprehensive approach with the tabling of a bill in early 2021 that will apply to the various platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.).”
“Social media platforms,” the briefing note continued, “can … be used to threaten, intimidate, bully and harass people, or used to promote racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, misogynistic and homophobic views that target communities, put people’s safety at risk and undermine Canada’s social cohesion or democracy.”
Guilbeault alarmed free-speech advocates last February when he stated that the Trudeau government was considering forcing online news websites along with social media platforms to obtain a government license to operate in Canada. He later walked back the comments after widespread backlash, stating that the Liberal government has “no intention to impose licensing requirements on news organizations,” nor will it “regulate news content.” A controversial Liberal government report titled “Canada's communications future: Time to act,” all the same recommended a media registry for news outlets in Canada.
LifeSiteNews reported in September that the Liberal government had already drafted documents related to regulating the internet in Canada that were being kept tightly guarded.
The Canadian government’s plan to regulate free speech did not escape notice from American conservative commentators. Fox News host Tucker Carlson heavily criticized the proposal on his show last week.
"Well, this is all moving pretty fast, it always does move pretty fast, but don't you worry; it's for your safety," said Carlson.
"Up in Canada, the Heritage Minister just announced this week that that country will introduce new regulations to ban social media posts that are deemed 'hurtful' or 'offensive.’ 'We want to protect Canadians online,' the Minister explained."
"Of course, they want to protect themselves, sorry, protect you by protecting themselves from criticism from you. See how that works? Right. You're protected when you can't speak."
Our inglorious ���� Minister of Heritage makes the news... pic.twitter.com/IVNTvAAnqs— Debbi Teplitz (@DTeplitzer) January 16, 2021
Toronto Sun journalist Lorrie Goldstein said Canadians should be “very afraid” of Trudeau’s plans to regulate free speech.
“Given that we already have criminal and civil laws to deal with these issues (racism, bullying, etc.), it appears what the Liberals really want to target is speech they think ‘undermines Canada’s long-standing commitment to diversity.’ That is, speech that offends Liberals,” he wrote.
“Can you imagine a world where social media companies would have 24 hours to take down ‘illegal’ postings that allegedly undermine the Liberals’ definition of ‘diversity’ or face ‘significant financial penalties,’ if not criminal prosecution, to say nothing of what happens to the person posting the ‘illegal’ tweets or other comments,” he added.
Lawyer Jay Cameron, litigation manager for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, recently told LifeSiteNews that whatever the intention of the government might be regarding regulating the internet, at the end of the day, free speech will suffer.
“When the Federal Liberals announce with great fanfare that they are going to tackle ‘online hate,’ what they really mean is that they intend to censor legal speech they and their supporters disagree with. When you start asking questions what you quickly realize is that what the Federal Liberals mean by ‘online hate speech’ is really ‘speech online that they don't like’ and is disagreeable to their supporters because it departs from progressive orthodoxy,” Cameron said.
“Canada already has a Criminal Code prohibition against hate speech, but it has rigorous defences built into it and prosecution requires consent from the Attorney General. The Heritage Minister knows that the speech he wants to go after is legal and cannot be prosecuted under section 319 of the Criminal Code. So he wants to create a new tool to prevent speech that is otherwise legal,” he added.
Cameron said that in Canada, section 2(b) of the Charter protects the right of citizens to have their own thoughts and beliefs and to express them. “This includes ‘thoughts, beliefs and opinions’ the Heritage Minister does not like,” he said.
“In other words, the reason Canadians have a Constitution in the first place is to protect them from authoritarian politicians like Stephen Guilbeault,” Cameron added.
The Honourable Steven Guilbeault - Minister of Canadian Heritage
15 Eddy Street, 12th Floor
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0M5
Email: [email protected]