Opinion | The Liberal Party’s Censorship Extremism

By Troy Lanigan, President of the Canada Strong and Free Network.

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Steven Guilbeault, the Minister of Heritage, took to Twitter to reiterate his unwavering commitment to regulating speech on the internet. Because what better way is there to communicate your censorship plans than over the very platforms you hope to regulate.

This past summer Prime Minister Trudeau dismissed critics of C-10 as “tin-foil hat” conspiracy theorists and his Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault suggested only “extremists” would oppose the government’s proposed measures. No doubt they would say the same about critics of C-36.

If re-elected, the Liberals plan to revive a host of censorship measures the centrepiece of which fall Bills C-10 and C-36. If there was any benefit to an unnecessary early election call, it was the welcome death of these two bad pieces of legislation. Let’s hope they stay that way.

Since its introduction in November 2020, Bill C-10 has faced a barrage of criticism from legal experts, consumer rights advocates and Canadian content producers.

Originally pitched as legislation to force online services like Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime to provide more Canadian content, the powers of Bill C-10 gradually expanded to include provisions that would subject the social media posts of Canadians to policing by the national broadcast regulator CRTC.

Putting YouTube under federal authority is apparently the only way of getting Canadians to watch more proper content. Not surprisingly, one directive to the CRTC instructs bureaucrats to use C-10’s tools “in a way that is consistent with the government’s vision.”

University of Ottawa Professor Michael Geist summarizes “Bill C-10 adopts the position that a regulator sets the rules for free speech online,” adding the Bill is “an unconscionable attack on the free expression rights of Canadians.”

It’s with a twist of irony then that the Liberals shut down an all-party parliamentary committee studying the bill which raised concerns over its – wait for it — impact on free speech.

Unfortunately, Bill C-10 was just the warm-up act. Introduced 27 minutes before Parliament broke for summer recess, Bill C-36 was introduced. And, not unlike C-10 this Bill too had an innocuous goal: stop online hate.

Notwithstanding Parliament banned hate speech under the Criminal Code in 1970, Bill C-36 expands the law to allow house arrest, electronic monitoring or jail for anyone suspected “on reasonable grounds” that they might commit “an offence motivated by bias, prejudice or hate” based on their internet writings regardless of whether they are convicted of a crime.

One civil liberties group called it an “astounding proposal” that “grossly violates the fundamental human right of free expression.” Wrote the Association: “Criminal conduct in this case is speech in which no actual harm to any specific person needs to be proven by the state.” Wow! 

As detailed by Blacklock’s Reporter, C-36 further “amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to permit investigations of complaints, including anonymous complaints against any publisher, blogger or social media user deemed ‘likely to foment detestation or vilification.’” The law would provide for fines to be paid in compensation to complainants of up to $20,000. 

Before you vote on September 20th – read the fine print. The only thing “extreme” is what may well happen to our cherished right of free speech in Canada if a re-elected Liberal government passes these two despotic pieces of legislation.

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