Canadian Bill C-63 Creates a Kangaroo Court

In Canada, Big Brother wants control of how citizens think and speak. Tragically, this Orwellian nightmare is becoming a reality. The government’s trilogy of censorship bills—Bill C-11 empowered the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to tell us what to watch, Bill C-18 extorted millions from big tech to help fund legacy media, and the recently introduced On-Line Harms Act Bill C-63 will impose authoritarian censorship laws the likes of which are found in places like Iran or China.

Bill C-63, which recently passed its first reading in the House of Commons, will create a “Digital Safety Commission” with nearly unlimited power to regulate online platforms. The tribunal will accept anonymous accusations and can punish wrongdoers with fines of upwards of $50,000 to the government and $20,000 to the complainant. The legal standard used is not beyond a reasonable doubt of proof but the lower standard of balance of probabilities. 

The commission can appoint an investigator who can enter a residence without a warrant and search for information, taking away one’s computer and documents—you don’t even need to commit a crime. If a judge believes there are “reasonable grounds” to fear a future hate crime, the yet-to-be-charged person can be sentenced to house arrest with electric tagging and communication bans. If the person does not cooperate, they go to jail. 

Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, has pointed out that the commission is not even “bound by any legal or technical rules of evidence.” Canada’s best-known writer, Margaret Atwood, is one of the few among the country’s cultural elites to speak out against the bill. She warned that “the definitions or lack of them in the law as to what constitutes punishable speech and or thought are so vague as to invite abuse.” 

She referred to periods in history like the French Revolution, when the Law of 22 Prairial denied the accused the right to self-defense, or during the Salem witch trials of 1692-93, when “spectral evidence” led to 19 people hanged for practicing witchcraft. “The possibilities for revenge false accusations and thought crime stuff are so inviting,” she wrote on X. 

On the surface, Bill C-63 purports to protect children from online bullying and victimization. But the 5,000 plus word bill is ladened with newspeak. The criminal code is amended so that any hate crime is punishable with life imprisonment. “Advocating for genocide” goes from 5 years in prison to life. The Trudeau Liberals are using the guillotine for speech violations and house arrest for career criminals roaming the streets exploiting a broken bail system.

Lawyer Olivier Sequin, who works with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, believes the “government’s hate speech is so subjective and vague that just about anything from political opinion to criticism can fall into its net.” Bill C-63 defines hate speech as any communication that expresses “detestation or vilification” of a person or group of people. Individuals and groups can complain to the Canadian Human Rights Commission that they have been offended by speech that discriminates against them. One must remember that the Human Rights Commission has deemed Christmas as “racist.”

Trudeau vows that the bill is to protect Canadian youths from “online harms,” but the “think of the children” argument is spurious. There are already criminal laws on the books to deal with the publication of obscene material and child pornography, publishing intimate images without consent; section 319 (1) prohibits the public incitement of hatred towards a group that is identifiable by race, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression and criminalizes sedition. 

And social media companies have their own set of robust rules and censor users for the slightest offense. Not to mention that a causal link between harm to adolescents and social media has not been demonstrated in the scientific literature (See here, here and here for robust studies). 

How did Canada become so anti-free speech? Under the leadership of Justin Trudeau, the Liberal government has doubled down on its ideology that is intolerant of criticism, abhors debating controversial ideas, and is possessed of a tribal mentality that only cares about the needs of its own at the expense of liberty.

Even before the On-Line Harms Act, Canada suffered from heavy state censorship. By making it a criminal offense to speak one’s mind, Bill C-63 will create a chilling effect. Citizens will avoid criticizing the government; social media companies will act reflexively by removing any content that the government wants to censor; journalists, writers, and commentators will not dare criticize gender, ethnicity, religion, or the indigenous file. We’re already starting to see the effects of Bill C-18. Meta has already “decided to block news content on Instagram and Facebook in order to avoid the law.” The regulations of C-63 are likely to make matters worse.

The bill is a significant legal overreach by the current Liberal government. It appears that they are attempting to gain votes by catering to certain interest groups while making it simpler for police to detain individuals for free speech violations without following due process.

Francis Crescia is a York University graduate with an honors B.A in political science with a business career background as an IT executive and photojournalist. He currently blogs about politics and economics.
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