Coming Soon: Canadian Jail For Online Hate Speech

Written by Alexander Brooks.

Canada has taken a significant and controversial step with the introduction of the Online Harms Bill C-63 by the Trudeau regime. This new legislation is designed to combat what it identifies as “hate speech” online by granting police unprecedented powers. One of the most alarming features of this bill is its retroactive nature, allowing law enforcement to scour the internet for past violations and take action against individuals whose comments were legal at the time they were made. This move raises serious concerns about freedom of speech and the implications for digital expression.

Historian Dr. Muriel Blaive has voiced strong opposition to the bill, describing it as “mad” and a severe breach of Western legal traditions. Traditionally, legal systems operate on the principle that one cannot be punished under a law that did not exist at the time of their actions. This foundational concept appears to be turned on its head by Bill C-63, setting a precedent that could have chilling effects not only in Canada but potentially as a model for other nations, including the United States.

Muriel Blaive:

The Canadian law proposal is outright mad. It is retroactive, which goes against all our Western legal tradition, according to which you can be punished only if you infringed a law that was valid at the time when you committed a crime: “And it isn’t just stuff you’ve posted after the new law comes into force you can get into trouble for – oh, no – but anything you’ve posted, ever, dating back to the dawn of the internet. In other words, it’s a gold-embossed invitation to offence archaeologists to do their worst, with the prospect of a $20,000 reward if they hit paydirt. The only way to protect yourself is to go through all your social media accounts and painstakingly delete anything remotely controversial you’ve ever said.”

And there is worse!

“Although, that won’t protect you from another clause in the bill – and this is where it trips over into as yet unimagined dystopian territory. If the courts believe you are likely to commit a ‘hate crime’ or disseminate ‘hate propaganda’ (not defined), you can be placed under house arrest and your ability to communicate with others restricted. That is, a court can force you to wear an ankle bracelet, prevent you using any of your communication devices and then instruct you not to leave the house. If the court believes there’s a risk you may get drunk or high and start tweeting under the influence – although how is unclear, given you can’t use your phone or a PC – it can order you to submit regular urine samples to the authorities. Anyone who refuses to comply with these diktats can be sent to prison.”

By externalizing the defense of free speech to the right and extreme right and by endorsing repression, the liberal left is playing a very dangerous game here. For those of us who are NOT on the right and extreme right, this is rather disheartening… The left is actually shooting itself in the foot and will come back whining, ‘amazed’ that ordinary people are so ‘ungrateful.’ Indeed it seems to have forgotten that the rule of law implies to solve disagreements in the voting booth rather than by silencing those who disagree with us. How can it hope to get the support of the public for this insanity?

An online X user recently shared that his wife wrote a letter to every Canadian MP concerning this chilling bill, and only one MP responded. He posted MP Rachel Thomas’s reply, which many are now calling one of the most insightful and well-crafted summaries on this alarming issue.


My wife wrote to all Canadian MP’s about our opposition to the Online Harms Bill C-63. MP Rachael Thomas of Lethbridge is the only one who wrote back … It is the best written summary of issues I have seen yet. Long, but here it is…

“Thank you for writing to me regarding Bill C-63, the Liberal’s latest rendition of their online harms legislation.

While the federal government has touted this bill as an initiative to protect children, it does little to accomplish this noble cause, and a great deal to inhibit freedom of speech. Permit me to outline the bill in more detail.

There are four key parts to the bill: Part 1 creates the Online Harms Act; Part 2 amends the Criminal Code; Part 3 amends the Canadian Human Rights Act, and Part 4 amends An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service. I will focus on the first three parts of the bill in the rest of the letter.

Part 1: The bureaucratic arm will consist of three entities: the Digital Safety Commission, Digital Safety Ombudsperson, and Digital Safety Office. These new offices are made up almost entirely of Cabinet appointees and are given powers to receive and investigate complaints concerning harmful content, collect data, and develop more regulations. The Chairperson of the Digital Safety Commission would be voted on by Parliament. The Digital Safety Commission may investigate complaints and hold hearings regarding violations of the Act. The commission may act with the power of the federal court and may authorize any person to investigate compliance and non-compliance.

Penalties for violating an order of the commission or hindering anyone they authorize depend on whether a regulated service or individual commits the violation. The maximum penalty for a violation is not more than 8% of the gross global revenue of the person that is believed to have committed the violation or $25 million, whichever is greater. Cabinet and the Digital Safety Commission can make further regulations concerning the Commission’s powers and financial enforcement (fines).

Setting up a bureaucratic arm will do little-to-nothing to protect children. The last thing our system can handle right now is a stack of new complaints. It can’t even handle the existing ones.

Part 2: Bill C-63 creates a new hate crime offence that will make any offence under the Criminal Code, or any Act of Parliament, an indictable offence and punishable to life in prison if the offence was motivated by hatred. A definition of ‘hatred’ is introduced in s. 319(7), which is defined to mean ‘the emotion that involves detestation or vilification and that is stronger than disdain or dislike.’ s. 319 (8) includes the clarification that the communication of a statement does not incite or promote hatred, for the purposes of this section, solely because it discredits, humiliates, hurts or offends.

Furthermore, the bill increases the punishment for an offence in s. 318 (1), advocating genocide, to imprisonment for life. The current punishment is up to 5 years. The bill also increases the punishments for offences in s. 319 (public incitement of hatred, wilful promotion of hatred, wilful promotion of antisemitism) from up to 2 years to not more than 5 years.

Alarmingly, a peace bond is created for ‘fear of hate propaganda offence or hate crime.’ This will allow a person to seek a court-ordered peace bond if they reasonably fear that someone will commit a hate propaganda offence or hate crime against them in the future. If you’ve watched the movie “Minority Report” you know how scary this is.

Part 3: The bill reinstates Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which empowers officials at the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to make subjective determinations as to what forms of expression constitute hate speech, and they may also decide on remedies including fines. This will allow any individual or group in Canada to file complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission against users who post ‘hate speech’ online, with an accused facing fines of up to $50,000.

The legislation defines hate speech as content that is “likely to foment detestation or vilification of an individual or group of individuals on the basis of such a prohibited ground.” In other words, the content doesn’t necessarily have to directly express vilification; it only needs to be assessed as “likely to” vilify someone by a human rights tribunal. Section 13 is a punitive regime that lacks procedural safeguards and rights of the accused that exist in criminal law. Truth is no defence, and the standard of proof that will apply to Section 13 is “balance of probabilities,” not “beyond reasonable doubt,” as exists in a criminal case.

As you have rightly pointed out, Parts 2 and 3 of this bill are a direct attack on freedom of speech and will have a significant chilling effect as people fear the possibility of house arrest or life in prison. Margaret Atwood has gone so far as to say that C-63 invites the possibility of revenge accusations and the risk of “thoughtcrime.”

Furthermore, its alarming that the bill enables individuals to anonymously file complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission against those they deem to be posting hate speech. If found guilty, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal can impose fines of up to $70,000 and issue takedown orders for the content in question. Additionally, the tribunal is granted the authority to shield the identities of complainants and prohibit defendants from disclosing this information if uncovered. In essence, accusers of hate speech will have their identities safeguarded, while those accused face significant financial penalties.

Common-sense Conservatives believe that we should criminalize and enforce laws against sexually victimizing a child or revictimizing a survivor online, bullying a child online, inducing a child to harm themselves or inciting violence. Criminal bans on intimate content communicated without consent, including deepfakes, must be enforced and expanded. Conservatives believe that these serious acts should be criminalized, investigated by police, tried in court, and punished with jail, not pushed off to a new bureaucratic entity that does nothing to prevent crimes and provides no justice to victims. We will bring forward changes to the Criminal Code that will actually protect children without infringing on free speech.

Thank you again for writing to me, and please accept my best wishes.

Warmest regards,

Rachael Thomas
Member of Parliament for Lethbridge”

Retroactive Justice and Potential Hypocrisies

The implications of Bill C-63 extend beyond just legal concerns; they strike at the core of ethical governance. If the past can be rejudged by the standards of the present, virtually anyone could be at risk of prosecution for previously lawful behavior. This includes public figures like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose past actions, such as wearing blackface, have been widely criticized but were not illegal at the time. The irony is palpable—under the new law, behaviors like his could potentially lead to serious legal consequences, highlighting a potentially hypocritical application of these new standards.

This shift towards retroactive policing of online speech is not just a Canadian issue—it signals a broader trend that could affect global norms around speech and expression. As governments seek to address the real concerns of hate speech and online harm, the balance between protecting citizens and preserving free speech becomes increasingly precarious. The case of Bill C-63 serves as a stark reminder of the need for careful, balanced approaches to internet governance that respect both safety and freedom.

Our Take

The introduction of the Online Harms Bill C-63 by the Canadian government represents a dangerous overreach that threatens the bedrock principles of justice and free speech. By allowing past online statements to be punishable under new laws, this legislation sets a troubling precedent for the future of digital expression. Such measures, while aimed at protecting individuals from online harm, risk imposing a regime of censorship that stifles free expression and opens the door to arbitrary and biased enforcement. It is imperative that lawmakers consider these risks and work towards solutions that safeguard citizens without eroding fundamental freedoms.

Trending Stories:

Our Sponsors: