New Canadian Law Could Land People in Prison for Life for Speech Crimes

( – Canadians have a reputation for being tolerant, open-minded, and generally nice people, but ultra-liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is trying hard to demolish that image. A draconian new law, allegedly meant to make social media safer, could see people jailed for life for online hate speech — or even put under house arrest because they might commit a crime in the future. Even many Liberals are saying the proposed law goes too far.

Legislating Words

On February 26, Canada’s ruling Liberal government introduced the Online Harms Act, which supporters say will make the internet — especially social media platforms — safer. There’s nothing wrong with that goal, but the way Trudeau’s government wants to achieve it has appalled Conservatives and even many Liberals. As well as imposing massive fines on social media companies for things people say on their platforms, it would also include harsh penalties for people who break hate speech rules. It could even punish people who haven’t committed any crime at all, just because a judge thinks they might.

Some of the least controversial features of the Online Harms Act involve increasing the penalties for hate speech. It’s already a crime to advocate genocide in Canada, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison. If the bill becomes law that would increase to life imprisonment. The penalty for “willful” promotion of hatred would rise from two years imprisonment to five.

An ominous new feature of the bill is a clause that would allow anyone to seek a “peace bond” against someone based on what they say online. If a judge decides that a person could commit a hate crime in the future, they could impose restrictions on them. Those restrictions might include limiting their internet use, banning them from going near religious buildings or even putting them under house arrest and forcing them to wear an electronic tag — all without a trial.

Proposals Worry Many Canadians

Liberal Justice Minister Arif Virani has defended the bill, claiming it would “help to de-radicalise people” and comparing it to laws on the safety of children’s toys. However, many Canadians are less enthusiastic. Liberal/centrist author Margaret Atwood, who wrote “The Handmaid’s Tale,” called the bill “Orwellian” and warned of the dangers of “revenge false accusations + thoughtcrime stuff.”

Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre accused the Liberals of wanting to censor opinions while the Canadian Civil Liberties Association blasted the proposed law as “draconian.” Canadians may be nice, but it seems they don’t like being forced to be nice.

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