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Canadian Justice Committee recommends prosecuting “online hate” under Canadian Human Rights Act

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Many human rights organizations consider freedom of speech to be one of the most fundamental human rights but the Canadian Justice Committee doesn’t seem to agree with this notion. It recently submitted nine recommendations to the Canadian government for dealing with what it deems to be “online hate” and one of the recommendations is to prosecute “online hate speech” under Canadian human rights law.

The recommendations were made in a report titled “Taking Action to End Online Hate” and are as follows:

  1. Provide funding for training on “online hate” to ensure that law enforcement, crown attorneys, and judges understand the need to combat “online hatred.”
  2. Share best practices on collecting data and combating “online hate.”
  3. Address gaps in the collection of data related to “online hate.”
  4. Track “online hate.”
  5. Prevent “online hate” by educating the population as to what constitutes “online hate” and providing models for combating “online hate.”
  6. Formulate a definition of “online hate” which acknowledges people who are disproportionately targeted by “hate speech.”
  7. Provide a civil remedy for those who assert that their human rights have been violated under the Canadian Human Rights Act, irrespective of whether that violation happens online, in person, or in a traditional print format. This remedy could include reinstating the former section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act or a similar provision which allows for the prosecution of “online hate speech.”
  8. Establish requirements for online platforms and internet service providers (ISPs) which include requirements for removing all posts that constitute “online hatred” in a timely manner and significant monetary penalties for online platforms that fail to properly report on “online hate.”
  9. Encourage online platforms to authenticate their users and digitally sign content.

Given that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms contains provisions that allow the government to enforce what it deems to be “reasonable” limits on freedom of expression and that the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has previously ruled that “hate speech” laws are a “reasonable” limit in this area, these recommendations that further encroach on free speech are not surprising.

The recommendations follow a series of initiatives from the Canadian government which stifle the flow of information online. Last month, the Canadian government introduced its controversial digital charter which recommends restricting online content based on subjective terms such as “hate” and “disinformation.” It also rolled out a program to start funding news websites that it classifies as “reliable“ – a program that critics believe is dangerous and will manipulate the press.

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