Canada has passed a law on life imprisonment for “speech crimes”

The law on life imprisonment for “speech crimes”, drafted late last year by Justin Trudeau’s government, has been passed in Canada. According to official government statements, the bill aims to combat online abuse and provides for harsh penalties for hate crimes, including life imprisonment for incitement to genocide. However, its content raises serious concerns about free speech and the right to free expression.

According to Canadian government officials, the bill would increase the maximum penalty “for advocacy of genocide” from 5 years to life imprisonment and from 2 to 5 years on indictment for “willful advocacy of hatred.” The draft law lists seven categories of harmful content that platforms are required to remove from their websites. Prohibited content includes publications aimed at intimidating children or calling for self-harm. A “Canadian Digital Safety Commission” will be established to oversee online platforms. The bill states that major social media companies must immediately remove content that sexually abuses children, as well as intimate content transmitted without consent. In both cases, the postings must be removed within 24 hours, subject to monitoring and review. Companies found guilty of violating the law could face an administrative fine of no more than 6% of revenue. Canadian Justice Minister Arif Virani said the new law aims to protect children from negative exposure on the Internet.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government also plans to amend the Criminal Code to increase penalties for hate crimes, including by introducing a new offense punishable by up to life in prison for those found guilty of incitement to genocide. The Canadian Human Rights Act would also be amended to classify hate speech as discrimination and allow the Human Rights Tribunal to try incitement offenses. The Liberal and New Democratic parties are in favor of passing the document, but the Conservatives are opposed, calling Trudeau’s bill an “authoritarian program.”

Critics of the law believe it is a step toward censorship and limiting free speech. Writer Margaret Atwood called the law “Orwellian” and expressed fears that it could be abused. Experts and public figures have raised fears of too much scope for “revenge” and false accusations that such a law could provide. Under the new law, any provincial judge can impose house arrest and a fine if he or she has reason to believe the accused will “commit” an offense. The new law was also criticized by conservative author Stephen Moore, who called it one of the most totalitarian acts in the Western world in recent memory.

“This is the most shocking of all the totalitarian, illiberal and anti-enlightenment legislation that has been passed in the Western world in recent decades,” said author Stephen Moore.

Due to the sharp criticism of the new bill from the public and experts, Justin Trudeau himself and members of his cabinet decided to temporarily refrain from public statements and comments.

Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice believe that the tightening of legislation in the area of “speech crimes” raises serious concerns about the future of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in Canada. The Foundation’s experts are convinced that the importance of ensuring the right to freedom of expression cannot be underestimated, as it is the foundation of democracy and a guarantor of civil liberties.