Online Harms Bill

Discussion in 'Political Discussions' started by SteveFoerster, May 18, 2024.

  1. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Canadians, what's up with this Online Harms Bill of Trudeau's? I'm hearing a bunch of things from a bunch of places, and none of them sound very flattering. I realize that Canadian protections for freedom of speech are weaker than those in the US, but this thing sounds like it comes with a deluxe bouquet of unintended consequences that most Canadians would find anathema.
  2. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    I put your phrase into Google search, Steve. This is what I came up with. The source is National and known to me for decades.

    Sounds like it deals mostly with portions of bandwidth where I'm not found. That includes ALL social media sites. I found the hatespeech segment interesting. I thought Canada was better at dealing with it than the Government feels the country is. OK by me if they want to come down harder on it. MUCH harder if they want. Nothing more to add here. Take a look.

    Have no idea what you are including as "unintended consequences." If you mean my Internet bill will go up, well, yeah, I'd have to look at it. But I'd do it in a balanced way - unusual for me. I would mind if Trudeau admitted what a mess he'd made of everything, and Chrystia Freeland took over as Party Head. I think she could win an election.
    Last edited: May 19, 2024
  3. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Sorry. Meant to say I WOULDN'T mind if Chrystia took over. I can think of NO other Canadian politician I want to see in that job.
  4. tadj

    tadj Well-Known Member

    In this case, I think it's best to hear things straight from the horse's mouth. I would recommend listening to the newest lecture from current Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Hon. Arif Virani. It was delivered at the Empire Club of Canada and gives you better insights into what’s coming. I've made some notes, which I am about to share below.


    In response to the question: “why do we need this legislation?”, the minister said the following: “It starts with a very simple premise: that all of us expect to be safe in our homes, neighborhoods and communities. We should expect the same kind of safety in our online communities.”

    The ”Online Harms Act” is guided by four objectives (minute nineteen of the lecture)

    1)it aims to reduce exposure to harmful content online and empower and support users

    2) it addresses and denounces the rise of hatred and the rise of hate crimes

    3) it ensures that victims of hate have recourse to improved remedies

    4) it strengthens the reporting of child sexual abuse material to enhance the criminal justice system response to this very heinous and prevalent crime.

    The bill has two main parts. The first part of the proposed new act requires social media services (including live streaming and adult content sites) to put in place special protections for children. It also creates a duty on platforms; to remove child sexual abuse material and so-called revenge porn including sexual deep fakes within 24 hours. The term deep fake is entrenched in the legislation. For all other kinds of harmful content targeted by the bill (including material that induces a child to self-harm, bullies a child, incites terrorism, violence and foments hatred), platforms will be required to give users the tools that they need to report harmful content, to reduce their exposure. Many platforms have already developed such tools and systems. The bill does not make them reinvent the wheel. The bill sets baseline standards and holds these platforms accountable to a new oversight body, the newly created Digital Safety Commission.

    The second part of the bill proposes to amend laws that are already on the books, the criminal code. This code will be amended to include the Supreme Court’s definition of hatred, creating a new stand-alone hate crime offense. There will increase penalties for 4 existing hate propaganda offenses and establish a new type of “peace bond” to prevent the commission of hate-motivated crime. The Human Rights Act is also being amended to restore the ability of individuals and groups to file complaints against users who post hate speech online. There are also amendments to the Mandatory Reporting Act, which deals with internet child pornography.

    The bill extends the already existing hate speech protection to the online world. So, how is hatred defined? It is centered on the concept of detestation and vilification based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation and other grounds, that is the terminology that has been used by the Supreme Court to define hatred. This is “an extremely high bar to meet. We are talking about speech that portrays a group as inherently violent or dangerous, as inhuman or worthy of execution.” A good example would be Rwanda where Tutsis were compared to cockroaches. That is the terminology that is going to fall under the legislation. The minister says that “we will not capture what others have called awful but lawful speech, offensive and humiliating comments, jokes, insults, expressions of disdain and dislike, or political dissent. There is a qualitative difference between insulting a racialized person and calling for an entire race to be exterminated. The latter would meet the definition of hatred; the former would not. Hate motivation will be included at the outset of charges first laid. This is to ensure that hates crimes are prosecuted as hate crimes including threatened acts of vandalism and murder.

    The minister said: “free-standing hate crime offenses exist in 47 of the 50 states south of the border. Only three do not have stand-alone hate crime laws. The existence of these statutes in the United States has not resulted in a constitutional crisis south of the border nor will it here.”
  5. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    Hm. Well. SOME American "hate crimes" are government sponsored.
  6. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Yes. It's a shame. I'm on-side with the Canadian Bill. And I still don't see those dire unforeseen consequences @SteveFoerster was talking about. Maybe if you tried it in the US - yeah.
  7. tadj

    tadj Well-Known Member

    I tried to fairly lay out what the bill represents from the perspective of the current Liberal government. But I am not convinced by their case for this legislation. I could see a possible case for better online child protection though. Is the bar for hate speech really that high (Rwanda, etc.) with the proposed legislation? If that's the case, I don't even see why this is even being proposed. It sounds fishy. I don't trust the Human Rights Tribunals either. As a former chair of such a tribunal states:

    "We used to say at the CHRT that the process itself is the punishment. It takes years to bring a case to conclusion. No one wants to be a respondent to a human rights complaint. Everyone knows that, and that’s likely the point." (Source:
    Last edited: May 19, 2024
  8. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    Ohh, so the Online Harms Bill is not about how being online harms me. :D
    tadj likes this.
  9. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    I do not think that there's such a long walk from legally restricting "hate speech" to policing "pure and wholesome thoughts." I don't think controlling any kind of speech anywhere at anytime is the government's business.

    Slander, fraud and shouting fire in a crowded theater cause immediate and verifiable harming themselves but that kind of speech
    SteveFoerster likes this.
  10. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    Already carries legal consequences.
    SteveFoerster likes this.
  11. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Yes. But the rest of this hate stuff has to as well. It already does, here. If this new bill adds to the consequences, I'm for it.

    I'm not for the US concept that you can say anything to / about anyone, thereby harming them or setting others against them - and get away with it. Its' wrong.

    Yes - it's a "freedom" in US and therefore sacrosanct - like packing a pistol. I don't buy either. Frontier days are over -- or they should be.
  12. nosborne48

    nosborne48 Well-Known Member

    Who gets to decide?
  13. tadj

    tadj Well-Known Member

    I think that Steve is right that Canadian protections for freedom of speech are generally weaker. However, Canada also has what is known as a religious exception for hate speech. It would be awful if the freedom of expression was further weakened and the religious exception was eventually overturned. U.S. and Canada have somewhat different priorities when it comes to dignity and free speech protection, as seen in those quotes from a recent book on hate speech:

    “How people in a given society or culture feel about the right to free expression will also shape the treatment of hate speech in the future. In countries like Germany and Canada, the right to free expression is seen as secondary to an individual’s right to dignity. Legal frameworks in these countries reflect this perspective. An individual’s right to free expression may be legally curtailed in the name of protecting another’s dignity.”

    “Another issue that countries restricting the use of hate speech will have to deal with is how to characterize religious beliefs that also meet the legal definition for hate speech. In Canada, hate speech against LBGTQIA folks is defended as being a viable religious belief. The Canadian Criminal Code contains a religious exception, which says that a person may not be convicted for expressing an argument or opinion on a religious subject, or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text. In the future, countries will have to navigate this issue as courts respond to incidents of hate speech that are also expressions of religious opinion, weighing individuals’ right to free expression against their right to the free exercise of religion.” (Carlson, C.R. (2021) Hate speech. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.)
    Last edited: May 20, 2024

Share This Page