Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, but Words Deserve Life in Prison?

What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist. — Salman Rushdie

Since the Trudeau government came to power in 2015, they have slowly pivoted from sunny ways towards an autocratic state where free speech and freedom of the press are suppressed and despised. This anti-democratic behaviour is abundantly clear to anyone who cares to look:

• The Trudeau Liberal government has subsidized legacy media to the tune of billions of dollars since 2019. Then, they had the chutzpah to create what they deemed were a list of “reputable media” that could be accessed via a CBC portal. The federally funded CBC has become discredited over the past eight years, losing more than half its viewing audience despite the Liberal government increasing its subsidy to almost $1.3 billion annually.

• The RCMP security detail for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland attacked, assaulted, and falsely arrested Rebel News Media Reporter David Menzies, who was trying to question Chrystia Freeland on her way into a meeting.

• The PM sent mandate letters to federal ministers, including Global Affairs Minister Melanie Joly, directing her department to counter media and internet content against “Russian disinformation,” a label so widely used in far left-wing circles that even journalistic titans like Glenn Greenwald, who broke the Edward Snowden story have been absurdly labelled an agent of Kremlin by representatives of the Trudeau government for suggesting among other inconvenient truths, that Ukraine is not winning the war with Russia.

The latest assault on free speech by the Trudeau government is the Online Harms Act, known as Bill C-63. The proposed legislation has a myriad of troubling provisions that threaten to further erode the fundamental rights and liberties of Canadian citizens.

One of the most alarming is the concentration of power it delegates to a newly established regulatory body. This body, composed of government appointees, would wield immense authority to interpret laws, devise new regulations, enforce them, and judge violations. Such unchecked power undermines the cornerstone of democratic governance — accountability. According to a National Post story from August of 2023, 76.3 percent of appointed judges are Liberal Party of Canada donors, which puts their impartiality into question. Based on that statistic alone, it is a very legitimate question to ask on what basis and qualifications these delegates will be selected.

Bill C-63 also taps into the wider problem with all speech regulations. Who determines what hate is? The act says that promoting hate propaganda could be punishable by five years to life in prison for “promoting genocide.”

The bill’s broadened scope of search powers, allowing warrantless access to electronic data, poses a grave threat to privacy rights. With the potential for unchecked intrusion into individuals’ digital lives, the legislation sets a dangerous precedent for unchecked state surveillance.

Bill C-63 reintroduces speech restrictions within the Canadian Human Rights Act. This provision is a direct contradiction of the values enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Any legislation targeting online harm must strike a delicate balance between security and liberty, ensuring that the rights of individuals are safeguarded in the digital age.

While aimed at curbing hate speech, Bill C-63 risks stifling dissent and limiting debate on contentious issues. And there is no doubt that if passed, it would immobilize the already strained resources of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, hindering access to justice for marginalized communities facing discrimination.

Most concerning is the chilling effect Bill C-63 could have on free expression. The vague language and overly broad prohibitions risk stifling not only journalistic freedom but also essential public discourse and political activism. Draconian penalties that have been written into the bill, including life imprisonment for vaguely defined offences like “incitement to genocide,” fly in the face of proportionality and fairness within the Canadian legal system. The fact that this type of language even made it into the bill, written by civil servants under the direction of their political masters (aka Justin Trudeau and his cabinet), should send shivers down the spine of anyone concerned about government overreach and abuse.

It was only two years ago that the Trudeau government, with the full support of Jagmeet Singh and the NDP, imposed modern-day martial law in Canada with the imposition of the Emergency Measures Act because they disagreed with the views of the non-violent trucker protesters who descended upon the capital to protest the Trudeau government covid policies. A Federal Court of Canada decision in January 2024 ruled the Liberal government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act in response to the 2022 Freedom Convoy protests was unreasonable, unjustified, and violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Despite that ruling, the Trudeau government introduced Bill C-63 to further control and restrict free speech for Canadians.

Contrast the response to the truckers’ protests with the Trudeau government’s non-response to the vile behaviour of masked antisemite protestors and racists at Toronto’s Eaton Centre in January that targeted Jewish Canadians — one of whom publicly threatened he would “put someone six feet deep.” He was only arrested weeks later and subsequently had all charges dropped. There were no federal charges or hate crime charges filed by the police.

Since then, Jewish Canadians have continued to be victims of aggression and intimidation by extremists who have targeted and undertaken protests with threats against Canadian Jews at Jewish-associated institutions like Mount Sinai in Toronto, a hospital where sick and vulnerable patients receive treatment and McGill University’s Bronfman building in Montreal.

In short, Bill C-63, in its current form, risks steering Canada down a perilous path where freedoms are sacrificed in the name of security and in the name of what Justin Trudeau and his minions think is “acceptable speech.” Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, the Executive Director and General Counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), has raised a red flag about Bill C-63, emphasizing the need for “meticulous scrutiny of this expansive legislation.”

Canada has existing hate speech legislation, much of which has been wrongly used by the Trudeau government to beat down people who simply have different opinions on controversial but societally important topics like transgenderism, reproductive rights, Israel, Gaza, Mass Migration, and vaccination. These issues may appear unconnected, but they aren’t.

Prime Minister Trudeau called anti-vaccine mandate protestors misogynists and attempted to lump Canadians concerned with their own bodily autonomy with racists. He implemented the draconian Emergency Measures Act as a tool to seize bank accounts and suppress freedoms protected under the Charter for people who had the gall to disagree with the government.

Paradoxically, the Trudeau government tolerates hate for opinions it deems acceptable. How else to explain former Liberal Transportation Minister Omar Algahbra’s being named to cabinet despite his open and public declaration that Hamas is a legitimate political organization when he was head of the Canadian Arab Federation in 2004-2005? (Hamas has been designated a terrorist entity under the Criminal Code since November 2002).

Then there is the case of the Trudeau government hiring of Laith Marouf and Dr. Gretchen King-Marouf through the Canadian Heritage Department and paying them over half a million taxpayers’ dollars as diversity consultants despite knowing their extreme and antisemitic views, including that Laith Marouf had publicly said, “I have a motto: Life is too short for shoes with laces or for entertaining Jewish white supremacists with anything but a bullet to the head,” amongst other things.

Given that the Trudeau administration has permitted federal institutions they govern over to fund outright antisemites and racists, arrest journalists they disagree with, and try to dictate who is and who is not a journalist, it is more incumbent than ever for parliamentary lawmakers to uphold the fundamental rights upon which Canadian democracy stands. Bill C-63 does not meet this standard.

Further, it is not lost on anyone that the very prime minister who is attempting to introduce a bill about speech and appropriate behaviour is the same person who dressed in blackface on more than four occasions as an adult and, when asked to account for the deplorable behaviour, suggested that he didn’t realize when he did it that it was wrong.

Another area of concern for all Canadians should be Attorney General and Justice Minister of Canada Arif Virani, who introduced the Bill C-63 legislation about speech decorum was caught on camera in the House of Commons on February 6, 2024, calling Official Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre a “F*cking tool” in response to Poilievre’s claim that the prime minister is responsible for the quadrupling of car thefts in Canada. How’s that for a vote of confidence for the government’s designated hitter for this new legislation?

In its current form, Bill C-63 is about control, not safety or free speech. It is an attempt to control online debate by a desperate government faltering in the polls.

Photo: iStock