New Canadian Law Threatens Life Sentences for Speech Offenses

( – While the US Congress contemplates forcing TikTok’s parent company to sell its platform in the alleged interest of national security and protecting user data from China, Canada is also making moves targeting social media. In February, the Canadian government introduced a bill that could possibly imprison people for life — a move that some say is not only overreach but borderline “Orwellian.”

Bill C-63 would enact the Online Harms Act and change the Canadian criminal code to promote online safety for citizens and reduce the instances of “harmful online content.” If passed, social media services would have to be transparent about their safety measures, reduce safety risks for users, protect children online, remove harmful content that sexually victimizes children or revictimizes a survivor, and keep all records showing compliance with the law.

While that all seems like common sense on the surface, an amendment to the bill imposes a life sentence behind bars for everyone who “advocates or promotes genocide” — plus fines. Other offenses carry sentences of under five years.

Wall Street Journal columnist Michael Taube compared the act to “The Minority Report.” The author of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Margaret Atwood, said the bill would allow people to make “false accusations” for revenge and invite punishments for “thought crime[s]” detailed in several apocalyptic novels.

According to a government spokesperson, the current penalty in Canada for promoting or advocating for genocide is five years — a far cry from the proposed life behind bars. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reportedly said the bill was focused on keeping the online space safer for kids and not a form of censorship. Justice Minister Arif Virani said the proposed law “does not undermine freedom of speech” but allows all people to express themselves while staying safe online.

This isn’t the first time C-36 has been presented to Canadian lawmakers. An earlier version was introduced in 2021 and was met with similar criticisms.

~Here’s to Our Liberty!

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