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Trudeau Internet Censorship Plan Threatens Online Freedom

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Just when you thought the internet was the last place for Canadians to speak freely, Justin Trudeau is at it again with his restrictive censorship plan. The Prime Minister’s latest attempt to control what people can and can’t say online should worry anyone who cares about freedom of speech.

By suggesting appointing a new “online harms regulator” and an ombudsman to police offensive content, Trudeau is getting even closer to his goal of controlling what we can say.

This obvious attack on Charter rights has groups who care about civil liberties very upset, yet the Justice Minister ignores them, reassuring Canadians they will find the right balance.

But make no mistake – when the government gives itself the power to decide what counts as harmful content, legitimate discussion and debate will inevitably get caught up in their crosshairs too. Even though Trudeau’s Liberals portray this as protection, it smells a lot like censorship.

Freedom-loving Canadians need to send a clear message: Hands off our internet freedom, Trudeau! We will not accept the government restricting what we can say and do online. Canadians deserve an open internet where we can speak our minds without censorship.

Poilievre came out in full attack and slammed Trudeau for his “online harms” bill coming next week.

The Trudeau government’s proposed online harms legislation has raised serious concerns about free speech and government overreach. While the stated goals of combating hate speech, terrorist content, and child sexual exploitation may seem noble, the potential unintended consequences of this legislation demand close scrutiny.

At its core, the proposal seeks to regulate lawful speech and impose significant new restrictions on Canadians’ charter-protected rights and freedoms. It would empower a government-appointed bureaucrat to decide what kinds of speech should be permitted online, a truly chilling prospect for a free society.

Perhaps most alarming is the requirement for online platforms to take down “harmful” content, including “hate speech”, within 24 hours. This outrageous demand would incentivize internet companies to over-censor content to avoid punishment.

Given the inherent subjectivity around determining what constitutes “hate speech”, this would surely result in the removal of lawful speech, potentially impacting minorities and marginalized groups most of all.

While no one wants to see harmful speech proliferate online, empowering the government to police thought and expression is not the answer. As we’ve seen throughout history, government attempts to restrict speech often backfire, silencing dissent and undermining a healthy marketplace of ideas.

Last year, Canada’s Privy Council conducted a survey to see how Canadians viewed the government’s role in censoring online “misinformation” and found that the majority of respondents disapproved of it.

The report reads: “Though all participants reported feeling some degree of concern, some also expressed reservations about the potential for censorship in any attempt by the federal government to prevent the proliferation of false information online.”

The Trudeau government argues this legislation will protect Canadians, but their track record on free speech is highly questionable. Mr. Trudeau has already shown his disdain for dissenting views, as evidenced by his smearing of trucker convoy protesters as holding “unacceptable views”. His heavy-handed invocation of the Emergencies Act to shut down those protests was also deeply concerning and found to be unconstitutional.

Counsel for the Canadian Constitution Foundation Josh Dehaas said “It would not be constitutional to do something that extreme, to have $20,000 fines for things that you say on the internet that somebody finds offensive.”

He also added: “The other concern I have is that companies like Facebook might just leave Canada,” said Dehaas. “Right now you have similar legislation in the European Union and they’re telling Twitter all the time, ‘If you don’t comply with our requirements and get rid of what we consider misinformation then we might kick Twitter out of Europe.’ Canada is a lot smaller and Twitter probably cares a lot less about us.”

What’s most frustrating is Trudeau acting like he gets to decide what’s acceptable speech when he himself has a history of racist behavior.

The idea that a Prime Minister who repeatedly wore blackface and has struggled to articulate what constitutes acceptable speech should lead the charge to police Canadians’ speech online is untenable.

And for that, Poilievre absolutely dismantled Trudeau’s hypocrisy, saying “Trudeau needs to examine the hate in his heart.”

Mr. Trudeau’s credibility on this file is non-existent. His claim that conservatives haven’t bothered reading the legislation is disingenuous political posturing, given that his government has yet to make the text public. Until the actual details are revealed and thoroughly analyzed, skepticism about this proposal’s impacts on charter rights is more than warranted.

There are also valid concerns that this legislation could perversely undermine efforts to combat child exploitation. By taking aim at lawful speech, it threatens to overwhelm already strained law enforcement resources that should be focused on the most egregious criminal offenses. The potential to drive illicit activities further underground through censorship of legal content also cannot be ignored.

While the Trudeau government is making a big show of tackling online hate speech, their lack of action on Canada’s war crimes program raises serious questions about their priorities. Despite a mandate to prevent war criminals from finding safe haven here, the program has not publicly reported on its activities since 2015. Its budget also remains stagnant after over two decades.

David Matas, a senior lawyer for B’nai Brith Canada, said the lack of reporting is a problem.

But he said it’s not overly surprising because the program has also suffered from a lack of funding.

“It’s a sorry story,” Matas said in an interview. “They don’t have much to report. Or you could say that in light of the underfunding, things haven’t changed that much.”

This neglect of a program designed to bring perpetrators of atrocities like genocide to justice is disturbing. In contrast, the government seems laser-focused on an online harms bill whose necessity and impacts on free expression have been widely questioned. It begs the question – why is policing lawful speech online a higher priority than upholding justice for war crimes?

The lack of transparency around the war crimes program also merits scrutiny. Without public reporting on its activities since 2015, it is unclear if it remains effective or has the resources needed to thoroughly investigate allegations. Before clamping down on charter-protected speech online, the government should focus on being more forthcoming about the program’s efforts to bar war criminals from entering or remaining in Canada.

Perhaps the only thing clearer than the threats this legislation poses to free expression is the ulterior political motivations behind it. In an era of ascendant conservative populism, the Trudeau government appears determined to hobble its political opponents by cracking down on dissenting voices and controversial views. Their aim is to chill speech that challenges liberal ideology.

Rather than combat evil ideas through open debate and criticism, the government now seeks to control what can be said online entirely. This paternalistic impulse betrays a lack of faith in Canadians to think critically for themselves. It is technocratic overreach of the highest order.

While the government refuses to disclose the legislation’s details, they assure Canadians it will be balanced. But their track record suggests otherwise. Handing discretionary powers to bureaucrats to censor legal speech can never be considered balanced in a free society.

Canadians should be extremely wary of any attempt to regulate online speech. While combating genuine harms like child exploitation is crucial, empowering the state to police expression is a cure far worse than the disease. Any legislation that fails to uphold charter freedoms should be forcefully rejected. Mr. Trudeau’s disregard for dissenting views makes him the last leader qualified to champion such legislation.

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