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New Canadian Bill Proposes Life Imprisonment for Speech Crimes

New Canadian Bill Proposes Life Imprisonment for Speech Crimes

Mar 16, 2024

New Canadian Bill Proposes Life Imprisonment for Speech Crimes

In recent developments in Canada, the Canadian parliament is considering new legislation known as the Online Harms Act, or Bill C-63, which has sparked a significant debate over free speech and government overreach. The proposed bill could lead to life imprisonment for individuals found guilty of advocating genocide online.

The Bill C-63 intends to increase penalties for what it deems the "willful promotion of hatred," raising the potential prison time from two years to five years. Furthermore, the legislation suggests that if someone is convicted of views supportive of genocide, the current maximum penalty of five years could be extended to a life sentence.

Justice Minister Arif Virani has been a vocal supporter of the bill, expressing his concern over the safety of children on the internet. He has drawn parallels between the regulation of physical toys and the lack of regulation of online content, stating, "I am terrified of the dangers that lurk on the internet for our children."

Critics of the bill, including prominent figures such as author Margaret Atwood, have voiced their opposition, calling the proposed measures "Orwellian" and comparing them to pre-revolutionary French "Lettres de Cachet" – a reference to the royal orders that could imprison individuals without trial. Atwood highlighted the potential for "revenge false accusations + thoughtcrime" on her Twitter account.

The debate over the Online Harms Act has grown, with some commentators labeling it as one of the most severe legislative actions against free speech in the Western world in years. Concerns have been raised about the vague definition of what constitutes the willful promotion of hatred and how it could lead to the suppression of legitimate free speech.

The Canadian government has defended the bill, citing the increased penalties as a necessary step to combat the promotion of genocide and hatred online. The bill also includes a provision that would allow judges to impose house arrest if there is reasonable belief that a defendant "will commit" a similar offense in the future, a concept likened by some to the predictive policing in the film "The Minority Report."

As the Canadian parliament moves forward with the potential enactment of Bill C-63, the discussion continues with a focus on balancing the protection of citizens, particularly children, from online harms with the preservation of fundamental free speech rights.

Canadian law endorsed by Trudeau government could imprison people for life for speech crimes
A controversial Canadian law that sets out to make social media platforms safer is getting flak for what some say is government overreach.


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