Civil Liberties Advocates Urge Government to Amend Bill C-63 for Rights Protection

Nikita Pradhan
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The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has called for significant amendments to the Liberal government’s Online Harms Act, Bill C-63.

Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Executive Director and General Counsel of the CCLA, emphasized the need for a thorough examination of the bill.

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Mendelsohn Aviv stated that their initial assessment revealed overbroad violations of expressive freedom, privacy, protest rights, and liberty, which must be rectified before the bill is passed into law.

Despite the CCLA’s concerns about the current state of the bill, the association expressed its endorsement of the declared purposes of upholding public safety, protecting children, and supporting marginalized communities.

The Online Harms Act, unveiled by Justice Minister Arif Virani, targets a range of harmful content, including materials that incite violent extremism, promote violence, or propagate hatred.

Additionally, the proposed bill seeks to modify the Criminal Code to strengthen the prosecution of hate crimes, introducing penalties that could extend to life imprisonment for certain offences.

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Critique of Proposed Enforcement Mechanisms

The Liberals also plan to establish a new organization to enforce rules surrounding harmful online content. This body, comprising the Digital Safety Commission, the Digital Safety Ombudsperson, and the Digital Safety Office, will work to ensure compliance with regulations and can order online platforms to take down content. However, the CCLA raised concerns about the authority granted to this body, allowing government appointees to interpret the law, create new rules, enforce them, and then act as judge, jury, and executioner.

Privacy Threats Under Scrutiny

Another troubling aspect highlighted by the CCLA is the bill’s provisions, including warrantless electronic data searches, which pose significant threats to privacy rights. Mendelsohn Aviv criticized these provisions as unacceptable intrusions into individuals’ digital lives.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre stated his opposition to the law, criticizing it as a means for the government to legislate censorship and infringe on Canadians’ free speech. The CCLA warned that the sweeping nature of Bill C-63 risks censoring a broad spectrum of expression and threatens public discourse and political activism. The proposed penalties, including hefty fines and life imprisonment for hate crimes, were also deemed draconian and disproportionate by the CCLA.

In conclusion, Mendelsohn Aviv stated that the bill undermines the principles of proportionality and fairness in the legal system and risks misuse or overuse by law enforcement, leading to unfairness to accused persons in court.

Last Updated on by Nikita Pradhan

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