New Canadian Law Could Allow Life Imprisonment For Online Speech ‘Crimes’

( – Canada’s Justice Minister Arif Virani recently introduced a bill that could send people to jail for life if they called for genocide. A spokesperson for the Canadian government said that the five years in prison for advocating genocide would increase to life in prison if the bill was passed.

If an individual is indicted for promoting hatred, they would be imprisoned for five years instead of two years if Virani’s bill becomes law. The Online Harms Act has been presented as a bill that would make social media safer for young people, but critics disagree. If passed into law, provincial judges would be allowed to fine and place individuals under house arrest if they thought a defendant would commit an offense.

Margaret Atwood, who wrote “The Handmaid’s Tale,” blasted the bill in a post on X, formerly Twitter. She said that if the description of the bill was correct, “The possibilities for revenge false accusations + thoughtcrime stuff are so inviting.” Other online users pointed the finger at the prime minister, stating, “Trudeau becomes dictator in Canada.” The Canadian government’s website says that the bill is geared toward promoting accountability for online platforms regarding the type of content allowed on their sites. In addition, the government argues that the bill would protect all Canadians from online hate.

The government website listed multiple examples of harmful online content that the bill would target, including wanton victimization of children, content depicting intimacy without consent, child bullying, and content promoting self-harm to children. Additionally, any content that foments hatred, incites violence, violent extremism, or terrorism, would also be targeted.

Almost 70 percent of Canadians support the bill, according to a new poll from Leger. However, just 41 percent believe that the legislation would be effective. Half of respondents also said they were skeptical about the government protecting free speech, and only 10 percent said they have complete trust in the government to regulate online content while also protecting free speech.

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